New members of Robottom adminstration get approval

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 16, 2012



LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council on Tuesday approved the appointment of a pair of new directors for Parish President Natalie Robottom’s administration but not without a bit of discussion prior to the vote.

The council ratified the appointment of Brian Nunes, a civil engineer employed by the Shread-Kuyrkendall consulting firm, as the parish’s public works director and Rhonda Gregoire Lemons, a Dallas/Fort Worth area program services manager for the Salvation Army, as the parish’s health and human services director. Lemons replaces Elois Joseph, who was not retained when Robottom took office for her first full term in 2012, and Nunes replaces Clifford Bailey, who was also not retained.

Lemons, a Reserve native who currently lives in DeSoto, Texas, was approved unanimously, but some on the council had questions about Robottom’s appointment of Nunes.

Councilman Art Smith questioned Robottom regarding why someone from within the parish was not selected for the public works position. Nunes currently resides in Denham Springs. He also raised questions about a potential conflict of interest because of Nunes’ employment with a firm that conducts business with the parish. Shread-Kuykendall has handled design and engineering for numerous parish drainage projects, and Nunes has been the project manager in St. John Parish.

“Was there anyone in the parish that could fit the bill,” Smith asked Robottom. “I just cannot believe that out of 49,000 people in St. John, no one could fill the position.”

Robottom said her administration interviewed several candidates for the job and even considered current public works employee Verdell Kindrick, who has been handling department management in the absence of a director. Robottom said Kindrick did not want to be considered. She said Nunes’ familiarity with the parish’s drainage system and the employees in public works made him the best fit and added that it is rare to have someone with his experience in this position.

“Brian Nunes is a civil engineer with significant experience in drainage, roads and levee protection systems, including design and management of federal, state and municipal projects,” Robottom said. “ His work experience in St. John Parish has included design, inspection and management of major drainage projects including the Reserve, Persimmon Street and Homewood Area drainage improvement projects.”

As for the perceived conflict of interest, Robottom said she acquired an opinion from District Attorney Tom Daley, who said that since Nunes is leaving his position at the firm, there would be no conflict now or in the future. Council legal advisor Jeff Perrilloux also addressed the question at the meeting and echoed Daley’s sentiments.

Council members Lucien Gauff, Jaclyn Hotard, Cheryl Millet, Michael Wright, Lennix Madere and Ranney Wilson voted in favor of the Nunes appointment. Smith and Larry Snyder voted against the hire, and Marvin Perrilloux abstained from the vote.

According to his bio, in addition to his work in St. John Parish, Nunes also managed the road maintenance program in St. Charles Parish and was the design engineer for St. Charles Parish’s west bank hurricane protection levee project.

Lemons’ bio states she is currently the youth and education program services manager for the Salvation Army DFW Metroplex Command, overseeing 30 education and sports programs. She was also responsible for providing employment assistance and administrative support for nine centers, serving 800 youth throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

With the hiring of Lemons and Nunes, the only remaining department head slot in Robottom’s administration is the parish’s purchasing director. Robottom told the council she is interviewing candidates for the job and hopes to have a candidate soon.