Mayor tosses 2 members of S&WB

Saturday June 21, 2003

By Martha Carr and Frank Donze

In his first 13 months on the job, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has opted for new blood at several agencies, including the Regional Transit Authority and New Orleans Building Corp.

This week, it was the Sewerage & Water Board's turn.

In one fell swoop, at Wednesday's meeting Nagin forced out Harold
Gorman, the board's executive director for the past 17 years, and replaced Henry Dillon, who has been president pro tem of the board for the past 12 years.

For a while it looked like Gorman, who has been on sick leave since March 6, would bow out gracefully. Nagin said Gorman was asked to resign but "did not do that." So the board voted Wednesday to fire the 25-year veteran of local government.

Gorman, 62, who has enough accumulated leave time to bridge him into retirement, declined to comment Friday. His deputy, Marcia St. Martin, will be acting executive director until a successor is named.

Dillon, the S&WB's most vocal foe of privatization was replaced as president pro tem by board member Sidney Evans.

The change was prompted by Nagin, who said the agency's bylaws require that a new second-in-command be appointed every two years.

"I was ready to let go," Dillon said.

The mayor is president of the board, but another member, traditionally a mayoral appointee, is elected to run the meetings in his absence and wields great influence.

Dillon said he didn't think that his objections to privatizing the city's water and sewer systems, which Nagin endorses, motivated the change. But he said he couldn't be sure.

"I have a tendency of speaking my mind, but I don't think that has been to my disadvantage," said Dillon, who was appointed in 1979 by Dutch Morial. "I would certainly hope that wasn't the reason."

But Dillon has been caught in the political crossfire before.

A staunch ally of the elder Morial, Dillon was kicked off the board in 1992 when Mayor Sidney Barthelemy claimed public employees could not sit on city boards. Dillon is personnel director at the University of New Orleans, a state institution.

Dillon was reinstated in 1994 when a civil district judge ruled he had been illegally removed. 

Evans, who was appointed by Mayor Marc Morial in 2001, has a more open view of privatization. He is vice president of business and finance at Dillard University.