The Orleans Levee Board's longtime staff attorney was suspended Wednesday just minutes before he was scheduled to offer his analysis of controversial decisions by former agency President Jim Huey to hand no-bid contracts to relatives in the days after Hurricane Katrina and to collect nearly $100,000 in back pay several weeks before the storm.
Gary Benoit, who has pointedly questioned the propriety of Huey's actions, learned of his suspension in the hallway outside the Port of New Orleans auditorium where the board was about to meet.
One of the first items on the board's Legal Committee agenda was supposed to be a presentation by Benoit regarding the failure of Huey, who resigned last month, to consult him on the salary issue or a post-Katrina contract awarded to the son of a board legal consultant.
An un-named fellow employee accuses Benoit of "improper behavior". Interesting timing, no?
"For over 12 years, my civil service record has been exemplary and spotless," [Benoit] said. "Then moments before my participation in a public discussion on matters of importance to the district and to the community, I was summarily suspended. I am totally shocked."