Luke addresses Council about allegations made against him

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 6, 2018

City Manager Jim Luke addressed Picayune’s City Council about allegations that he had been recording private conversations between he and Council members and shared his negative opinion of the Councilor who said she had proof of those allegations.

His comment was based off of allegations made during the last meeting on May 15, when Councilors Wayne Gouguet and Tammy Valente asked if Luke had been recording phone conversations Luke had with the Councilors.

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In subsequent coverage of the allegations, Valente provided the Item with a copy of a voicemail left on her phone where Luke could be heard saying he wanted to record a conversation with her.

Luke began his statement concerning those allegations by reading coverage from the Item, saying that “for most of the account that I read, it’s pretty accurate so I’m just going to read right from the paper.”

After recapping the allegations, he said that he has always lived his life by two statements, “Don’t be too quick to judge and there’s three sides to every story.”

In direct response to the allegations made by Councilor Tammy Valente, Luke said. “Here’s the fact. I recorded no one, I’ve recorded none of these great folks up here that I’ve served over the last 7 and a half years, not one time.

He then said that the allegations were hurtful to he and his family.

“I’m going to tell you, that was a vicious attack,” Luke said

“It was hurtful not only to me, it was hurtful to my family.”

He then addressed why he was leaving the voicemail on Valente’s phone in the first place, confirming Valente’s speculation that it was based on a matter requested to be added to the agenda, which Luke said would have caused division in the Council. Luke said that his staff is only concerned with uniting, not dividing the city, so he wanted to discuss the agenda topic before it was added. Details of the agenda item were not mentioned during Luke’s address.

Luke went on to say, “Did I say that I want to tape Mrs. Valente? Absolutely. I don’t apologize for it. I reinforce it tonight. I do not trust Council lady Valente. I don’t trust her on a business level. I don’t trust her on a personal level. All my dealings with her, my assessment is that I can’t trust that individual.”

Luke then spoke about his love for the city the city employees, Council members and Mayor. He also looked at Gouguet and said that he forgives him for making the initial allegation and the rest of the Council.

He added that he thought the matter should have been handled differently, such as with a meeting in his office, or through executive session. 

After the meeting, Valente issued the following statement, “I am still processing what happened. But I’m disappointed that the Council still hasn’t addressed it,” referring to the fact that the Council agreed to hold a special call meeting to discuss the allegations against Luke in executive session between the May 15 meeting and Tuesday’s meeting.

“When we recessed we were supposed to address the allegations in executive session. I sent out an email asking when it would be held and got no response except from Wayne,” Valente said.

When asked if she will continue to push the matter, she said “I don’t know.”

For more on Tuesday’s meeting, see the next edition of the Item.