Grant to step down from S&WB months earlier than expected, sources say

Interim management team to be named

Sewerage & Water Board Executive Director Cedric Grant will leave much sooner than he indicated, possibly starting his retirement as early as next week, sources told WWL-TV Friday.

His departure would clear the way for a soon-to-be-named management team which apparently will be made up of at least five state and national experts from various fields.

Resumes and qualification packets of those experts are going to be distributed as soon as possible to get this process on the fast track, sources said.

After flood water inundated New Orleans for the second time in as many weeks on Aug. 5, Grant, his staff and other high-ranking city officials told residents the pumps were on and functioning at full capacity when in reality several were down for maintenance and repairs before a drop of rain fell.

Residents whose homes and streets sat drenched in flood waters for hours after the rain stopped cried foul, urging an investigation into whether the drainage system was operating at full capacity as the public was being told.

Grant blamed climate change for the floods instead of admitting the system's shortcomings.

The day after the Aug. 5 event, which the S&WB estimates dumped 9 inches of rain in three hours in some locations, City Council members called for a special meeting to get to the bottom of whether the system was, in fact, working.

When pressed the Monday after the storm by WWL-TV, S&WB Superintendent Joe Becker admitted seven of the city's pumps were out of service during the storm.

Not even 15 minutes before the special City Council hearing began Aug. 8, Grant announced he would retire after 40 years of public service. His resignation letter said he would continue to lead the agency through the end of hurricane season, leaving the post officially on Nov. 30.

Grant has headed up the agency since July 2014, when Mayor Mitch Landrieu decided to shift him from a high-ranking post overseeing the city's capital projects to the city-owned public utility.

Since, Grant has continued to hold dual titles, both as executive director of the S&WB and as deputy mayor.

Little has changed about the mayor's relationship with Grant since the disastrous City Council meeting, in which it became apparent that the issues the S&WB faces were more sprawling and urgent than Grant first let on.

Grant has continued to be welcomed into meetings with Landrieu as the agency tries to get a grip on a system in disarray, according to S&WB sources.

Becker, who enjoys near universal appeal among S&WB employees, has been frozen out of meetings with the mayor who went so far as to announce during a press conference carried on live TV that he would call a special S&WB board meeting to seek to have Becker fired.

Becker got in front of that action and decided to retire instead, ending a nearly 30-year career at the S&WB, the last decade of which he served as the chief engineer.

While Landrieu has reportedly moved to distance Becker from any major decisions, S&WB sources say he continues to be as involved as possible in the day-to-day operations.

Becker's last day is Sept. 30.

WWL-TV reporters Katie Moore and Danny Monteverde contributed to this report.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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