ST. GABRIEL, LA (WAFB) - St. Gabriel Mayor George L. Grace left office Thursday afternoon, after serving just two months shy of 17 years as the city's first mayor.
Grace left his office after saying his final goodbyes to staff, as the heat continues to rise for his alleged involvement in Operation Blighted Officials.
Grace was indicted last year on eleven counts and is accused of receiving bribes to promote and obtain money for the fake garbage can cleaning system "Cifer 500". That was the company undercover FBI agents created for their sting. Mayors from New Roads down to White Castle were targeted.
"I'm innocent and I hope to be here to prove it real soon," Grace said.
On Tuesday, now former Port Allen Mayor Derek Lewis resigned, and pleaded guilty to charges involving the "Cifer 5000". Lifelong St. Gabriel resident Lionel Johnson will succeed Grace as mayor on Friday.
"There's a lot of anxiety and a lot of fear and uncertainty. This is the first time there will be a different administration," Johnson said.
Grace says he'll spend the next six months clearing his name and working with his attorney Lewis Unglesby.
"I want to be judged on the work that I've done, here in St. Gabriel, and if you just look at the way it was and where I brought it, I think you have a pretty fair assessment of George Grace," he said.
Grace's trial begins in January. If convicted, he could face up to 180 years in jail and a $2.75 million fine.