Commissioner upset over rumored racist remark

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 24, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / June 24, 2000

LAPLACE – Tuesday’s special meeting of the South Louisiana Port Commission took a surprise turn when board president Louis Joseph accused a fellow commissioner of making a racist personal remark.

Joseph, a gubernatorial appointee from St. John Parish, was in the midstof conducting the meeting when he unexpectedly announced he had some comments to make.

Joseph said he was very disappointed at hearing that Jay Roberts, a gubernatorial appointee from St. Charles Parish, had referred to Joseph as”that nigger who thinks he’s speaking for the port.”Roberts immediately denied he made the remark and asserted, “I have no racial problems with no one.” Roberts declared he had many African-American friends and invited Joseph to hang out with him and see.

“I don’t need to hang out with you,” Joseph responded, saying he knows where the remarks came from and who made them. “I’m not going to takeit,” he added.

St. John commissioner Bill Hubbard said, “That blindsided me right there,”and asked if Joseph needed a recess. Joseph said he was prepared tocontinue the meeting.

St. Charles commissioner Joey Murray, a personal friend of Roberts,commented afterward, “I was really taken aback by the whole thing,” and added, “I don’t think it was appropriate to bring up in the middle of a public meeting.”He continued that anyone who truly knows Roberts knows better than to believe the story.

Joseph said later, “I don’t believe in prejudice; it’s not my style,” and added, “We’re both governor’s appointees and should be working together. Ijust don’t want it happening again.”

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