PLAQUEMINES, La. -- Plaquemines Parish is advertising for an assistant manager of homeland security. But even before the job was created by the Parish Council at its June 28 meeting, a candidate already was being touted for the position.
In an email to all nine council members, recently retired Judge Michael Kirby recommended his stepson Patrick Harvey for the position, even though a vote on whether to create the job was several days away.
“If it is created, my stepson, Patrick Harvey, would apply for the position,” Kirby wrote in the June 25 email. “He is married with a small child, a lifelong resident of Plaquemines Parish, a product of its public schools and a graduate of Southeastern University at Hammond with a degree in Criminal Justice.”
Kirby went on to explain that Harvey had recently been released from his job as a deputy with the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office, where he had worked for 16 years. According to Kirby, Harvey was not retained by newly elected Sheriff Lonnie Greco.
Several council members said that, in addition to Kirby’s email, other friends and family members of Harvey pulled them aside to recommend the former deputy.
“There was some fairly heavy lobbying on behalf of the family,” Council Chairman Byron Marinovich said.
Kirby even appeared at the council meeting when the position was the subject of contentious debate, but ultimately adopted by a 5-to-4 vote.
“It was a little odd, a little disconcerting to me,” Marinovich said.
“But like I said, I explained to the person and to the family also, and anybody else who came in as an interested party, it doesn’t quite work that way. It isn’t how government operates.”
Michelle Wilcox, who runs the watchdog group The Plaquemines Pulse, believes that in light of the controversy and narrow approval, the council should reconsider the position.
“It’s very questionable in my eyes, and in everyone else’s. I’ve been getting calls about this since the last meeting,” Wilcox said. “To create a position for the purpose of having someone particular come in and apply for it, to me, casts a cloud around the proper procedure for this.”
Kirby was a longtime council member and judge in Plaquemines before he was elected to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal in 1999. He held that position in until retiring in 2011, although he still sits on the bench as an ad hoc judge.
Kirby said he continues to support his stepson for the job, but doesn’t believe he anything wrong in lobbying for him before the position was approved.
“I don’t think I did anything that any father wouldn’t do for his son,” he said. “If I were a sitting judge, it would be a problem. But at the time I wrote the email, I was retired as a judge. I don’t think I had any undue political influence.”
Even with Kirby’s email and presence during the council vote, Marinovich said his “no” vote had nothing to do with Kirby’s actions.
“I just didn’t feel we needed the position at all,” he said. “It’s just an unnecessary position. We’re looking to cut jobs and eliminate money right now, just like every other parish in the state. I just didn’t see a need for a $55,000-a-year job plus benefits.”
The parish said seven people have applied for the job, but there is no timetable on when the position will be filled.