NEW IBERIA, La. (KLFY) – Some veterans in Iberia Parish are upset after the parish council voted to take over control of five buildings where veterans meet in the parish. The individual boards that had oversight have been reclassified as “advisory” committees, which means they have no power.
“We got a sucker punch,” said veteran Robby Bethel. “It not only punched us in the gut, but it raised its ugly head. In 2021, we thought we had passed 1958.”
The board at the Robert B. Green Memorial Building is outraged. They say this group has special significance, in that the building was constructed more than 60 years ago for black veterans returning from war, and who were not allowed in white veterans buildings.
Robert B. Green sits on land purchased by black veterans, and donated to the parish, under a contract signed in 1958. The veterans agreed to donate the land for the parish to construct the building. In exchange, the building would be controlled by a board of veterans. Unfortunately, the building became in disrepair over the years.
Former state representative Terry Landry says he secured money from two governors to improve the building to its current state. The group believes the parish’s power grab is about renting out the buildings to make money.
“Every step of the way we were blindsided,” said Fred Wesley, president of the Robert B. Green Memorial Building. “From the beginning up to now, we were blindsided.”
“I support all of the veterans in Iberia Parish,” said Eugene Olivier, Iberia Parish councilman. “We really can’t repay the debt they serve for our country.”
Olivier says this is not about money, but does admit all of the veterans buildings are in demand to use for events. He says the parish saw an opportunity to take over the veterans building, so the veterans groups don’t have to pay for the upkeep of the property.
“I really think this is the best outcome for them. They have freedom to use it for all of the veteran functions. It’s just that they don’t have to have the responsibility of maintenance and operation of it. Parish government will assume that responsibility,” said Olivier.
Iberia Parish President M. Larry Richard says he will do everything in his power to make sure the veterans always have first use of the building.