Back on New Orleans City Council, Oliver Thomas also returns to the air at WBOK | Local policy
New Orleans City Councilman Oliver Thomas is set to return to a familiar gig on Tuesday: his morning talk show on WBOK-AM.
Thomas will juggle between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on weekdays with his job as District E council member for New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward. Thomas said it was “humiliating” that the station owners asked him to return to the air.
“I accepted on a trial basis, to see, because I would like to help them,” Thomas said. “I appreciate the conversation. I think it helped during the campaign. I understood the issues so much better.
Thomas started hosting the show half a decade ago, but he ditched his mix of politics and current affairs when he began his successful campaign for the E District seat in July.
Veteran broadcaster Sally-Ann Roberts took over the morning show, but Jeff Thomas, one of the station’s owners (not related to Oliver) said it was still planned for Oliver Thomas to take over his role as facilitator.
“He is an incredible talk show host and has a wealth of knowledge that the citizens of New Orleans will benefit from,” said Jeff Thomas. “Sally-Ann did us a big favor by filling in, but win or lose, we knew Oliver wanted to come back.”
Other Louisiana elected officials have straddled, or in some cases crossed, the line between media and politics in recent years. Governor John Bel Edwards has an unpaid monthly radio show where he answers Louisianans’ questions about state government. In 2017, Newell Normand left his high-level job as sheriff of Jefferson Parish to become a radio host on WWL-AM.
WBOK asked the Louisiana Ethics Committee on Dec. 29 for an advisory opinion on whether Thomas’ return might violate ethics rules. Jeff Thomas said the station had received a “preliminary” message that it would not, but the official request is pending.
The board has a March 4 hearing on the matter, according to Kathleen Allen, the state’s ethics administrator.
“It would be premature for me to give any answer given the matter pending before the board,” Allen said. “There are other opinions of a similar type. The council will review the sections of law referenced therein to see if they apply.”
Oliver Thomas said an unfavorable review would mark the end of his tenure as host. Neither City Hall nor any other topic will be banned when the councilman returns behind the microphone, Jeff Thomas said.
Sharon Varnado left her neighborhood of Little Woods in New Orleans East three years ago, and she hasn’t looked back.
“He’s free to speak freely, and we encourage him to be open and transparent,” he said.
The morning driving slot is one of the most coveted in talk radio. Oliver Thomas was one of the few survivors when the venerable AM station, known as Louisiana’s oldest black-owned outlet, was acquired in 2020 by a group including actor Wendell Pierce and businessmen local.
City council members are permitted to take outside jobs and many have supplemented their annual salary of $93,504 by doing so in recent years.
District A council member Joe Giarrusso earns income from his outside work for a law firm.
Former General Council member Jason Williams was a criminal defense attorney while chairing the council’s criminal justice committee.
Former WWL TV presenter Sally Ann Roberts will replace Oliver Thomas on the “Good Morning Show” on WBOK-AM as Thomas departs to continue as…