In The News › Capella joins call for IG office

Jan 22, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Governance, Jefferson Parish

Capella joins call for IG office

Inspector general would be watchdog

Friday, January 22, 2010
By Richard Rainey
The Times-Picayune

With Jefferson Parish mired in political scandal, Councilman Tom Capella called Thursday for an inspector general’s office shaped by independent government watchdogs.

A resolution that Capella plans to introduce to his colleagues Wednesday would create a five-member committee to recommend the parameters of the office and how it would be financed.

“It has to be completely independent, and it has to be properly funded,” Capella said.

The panel members would be picked by the Metropolitan Crime Commission, the Jefferson Business Council, the Bureau of Governmental Research and the East Jefferson and West Jefferson civic coalitions.

Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche said he would speak with the commission’s leaders before committing to Capella’s plan. Still, he said the recent turmoil in former Parish President Aaron Broussard’s administration calls for something to be done. “Every day and every new revelation surfacing is even more justification for moving toward some inspector general concept in Jefferson Parish,” Goyeneche said.

The committee would have until Aug. 18 to conduct research and report back to the council, Capella’s resolution states.

His announcement is a direct response to the continuing federal investigation of Broussard’s administration.

Federal authorities have issued series of subpoenas since November, including several focused on parish contractors and the parish’s two public hospitals, East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center.

Problems for Broussard’s administration began after the Nov. 2 disclosure that Whitmer’s private insurance agency, Lagniappe Industries, split commissions on a policy at the Marrero hospital.

Whitmer resigned Jan. 4, followed four days later by Broussard, who was paid $5,000 for what he described as legal work for Lagniappe Industries.

Inspector generals are usually tasked with ferreting out fraud, waste and corruption while promoting efficiency and transparency in local governments.

New Orleans has hit roadblocks in its own quest to build an inspector general’s office. After Robert Cerasoli left that job in January 2009, infighting and poor financing riddled the nascent department.

Jefferson Council Chairman John Young, who is likely to rival Capella for the parish presidency, floated the idea for an inspector general earlier this month.

“I’m glad Capella agrees with me since I first pitched that back on Jan. 5,” Young said before praising Capella’s idea to have independent groups appoint committee members. “My philosophy is we should have public input, and I think that was a good organization.”

Councilman Elton Lagasse remains skeptical of the inspector general idea but said Thursday it is worth exploring. A prohibitive factor, however, could be cost, he said.

“If you’re talking about a quality inspector general, a staff of researchers, clerical staff and a good computer system, you’re talking up to three quarters of a million dollars,” Lagasse said.

“Now I’m just estimating here. I don’t know if we need it or not, but I think we need to look at that possibility. And if this is what the people want, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Councilman Chris Roberts said he would like to see an existing tax rededicated to the inspector general’s office, a move that he said would keep elected officials from having any influence over the office’s finances.

“I want to make sure that we avoid any roadblocks that wouldn’t allow the office to get up and running and be successful,” he said.

Jan 22, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Governance, Jefferson Parish

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