Mitch Landrieu won’t rule out gubernatorial bid, and other New Orleans-area political news

It was at the end of a long interview on WWL Radio this week that Angela Hill finally threw down the big question: “Governor?”

At first, Mayor Mitch Landrieu offered the same answer he did during this year’s mayoral campaign, when he pledged to finish out a second term rather than try to leave early to serve in Baton Rouge when Bobby Jindal leaves office.

“No,” he said. “I love being the mayor of the city of New Orleans.”

But then came the crucial caveat. “When you’re a politician, you never say never,” Landrieu continued, “Who knows what it’s going to look like a year and a half from now?”

Indeed, a year and half from now, the mayor may have a better sense of how the Landrieu brand is holding up with voters statewide. For instance, a good result for sister Mary Landrieu in her Senate re-election campaign this fall might offer hope for a Democratic candidate in an increasingly Republican state — one that hasn’t elected a Democrat not named Landrieu to statewide office since 2007.

Hill pressed the issue: “When you see polls that show you right up there in the running ...”

The mayor laughed. “It’s always nice to be winning when you’re not running,” Landrieu said.

Activist says flap over racist emails not over

Civil rights organizer Belinda Parker Brown and about a dozen people gathered outside the St. Tammany Parish Justice Center this week to blast Sheriff Jack Strain for his handling of a flap over racist emails circulated by Capt. Bobby Juge, one of his officers, to the private accounts of other officers.

Brown had earlier asked Strain to launch a probe of the matter. When he declared it over, Brown called his response unacceptable and said her organization, Louisiana United International, wants his “immediate resignation” for what she characterized as a lack of leadership.

“He had an opportunity to bring healing and trust back into our community in regard to the racist, sexist and inflammatory emails,” Brown said. She said Strain should have issued a strong statement saying he would not tolerate such behavior and further ordered training for some of those involved.

Several of the emails depicted black men as monkeys, including one that showed President Ronald Reagan bottle-feeding a chimpanzee with the caption: “Rare photo of Ronald Reagan baby-sitting Barack Obama in early 1962.”

“It’s always nice to be winning when you’re not running.” MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU, on running for governor of Louisiana

While Strain publicly deplored the emails, he also defended Juge’s character in an open letter on the department’s Facebook page, saying the officer’s record showed that he treats all residents fairly.

The sheriff responded to Wednesday’s call for him to step down with a written statement that defended the internal handling of the matter as appropriate, “with attention to ensuring all of our employees follow the letter and the spirit of our mission statement.’’

He said extensive interviews confirmed his belief that the emails were not indicative of Juge’s core values. “As I said previously, this issue is now finished,” he said.

Brown said she does not plan to let it rest.

Tammany coroner gets positions approved

Before the St. Tammany Parish Council could get to an emotional and time-consuming debate on fracking Thursday night, Chairman Reid Falconer thought it would be a good idea to take care of a few smaller agenda items first.

It didn’t go quite as he planned.

The council soon found itself in an all-too-familiar place — debating the personnel and salaries of employees at the Coroner’s Office. But unlike in previous debates, all of the council members were deferential to Charles Preston, the recently installed coroner.

Preston had asked the council to approve the hiring of a full-time mental health director to replace Leanne Truehart, who ran against Preston for the post and who has since announced she will resign at the end of this month. Truehart had taken the position as a contract employee, earning $180,000 per year for 35 hours per week of work.

After a lengthy and at times disjointed debate over procedure, the council voted 8-6 to create the position at a salary of $180,000. With benefits, the total compensation will be pushed above $200,000 per year, something Preston said the position requires but which some council members said was too high. Preston said he hopes to hire Balminder Mangat, a Slidell psychiatrist, for the position.

The council also unanimously approved Preston’s request for a new chief investigator position at a $56,000 salary. The position has been vacant since the resignation of Mark Lombard late last year.

Compiled by staff writers Andrew Vanacore, Sara Pagones and Faimon A. Roberts III.