Ralph Bean fired as parish utilities director

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 28, 2009


LAPLACE — At the request of Parish President Bill Hubbard, the St. John Council voted Tuesday to dismiss Ralph Bean as public utilities director for the parish effective immediately.

Hubbard called for the vote to remove Bean after a 40-minute executive session with council members during Tuesday’s regular council meeting. Executive sessions are closed to the public.

The council voted 7-1 in favor of removal, with Division A Councilman-at-Large Dale Wolfe casting the lone dissenting vote. Division B Councilman-at-Large Steve Lee chose to abstain from the vote.

The administration has not revealed what led to Bean’s sudden firing. After the meeting Tuesday, Hubbard and several council members had no comment on the move citing that the issue was a “personnel matter.”

As head of the public utilities department, Bean, who has been with the parish since 2003, was responsible for overseeing both water and sewage for St. John Parish. Water quality throughout St. John is an issue the parish has struggled with since 1998, when the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Environmental Protection Agency mandated the parish take steps to minimize the level in contaminants in the parish’s water supply. The mandate led to the creation of the Nano Filtration System that is used to purify the water.

Lee, who said after the vote that he was one of the people responsible for bringing Bean into the parish, expressed his displeasure with the move.

“I always considered him to be very intelligent, sometimes overqualified for the position,” Lee said. “I think the job became too big too fast and the person at the top is the one that must take responsibility.”

Lee would not go on record to say what led to Bean’s removal. Parish officials would not say whether the move was performance-related or conduct related.

St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said this is the first time in the history of the parish council system that a director has been removed.

As the executive session carried on, it became increasingly clear that Bean was the target of some sort of action. At one point during the closed-door meeting Bean was called inside. Minutes later, Bean left the meeting room and exited the Percy Hebert Building in LaPlace.

Boe said the parish would begin advertising for Bean’s replacement immediately. Until the job is filled, St. John Chief Administrative Officer Pat McTopy will handle the day-to-day operations of the utilities department.