In The News › Editorial: Open process for Jefferson

Oct 15, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Jefferson Parish

Editorial: Open process for Jefferson

Friday, October 15, 2010
The Times-Picayune

When public outrage over insider dealings forced the resignation of former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard in January, the Parish Council had to pick an interim replacement.

Advocates for good government urged council members to use a transparent selection process to boost the public’s confidence in the eventual choice and in parish government. But most council members chose to strike a political deal. Without holding a single public meeting, six of the seven council members announced they would pick former legislative auditor and long-time parish politician Steve Theriot.

Mr. Theriot, who left office this week, exceeded expectations as interim parish president, stabilizing parish government and pushing for more transparency. But the secret way in which council members chose him was a disservice to residents and to Mr. Theriot.

Now the council has to name a temporary replacement for former Councilman John Young, who became parish president this week. Councilman Chris Roberts is proposing to adopt guidelines that would ensure the open selection of a qualified appointee for this post and for all similar vacancies in the future.

The council should adopt his proposal and begin using it now.

Councilman Roberts’ proposed ordinance mirrors recommendations from the Bureau of Governmental Research, which studied appointment processes in a handful of cities across the country. As drafted, the ordinance will allow each remaining council member to nominate a candidate for vacancies in the parish presidency or in one of the council’s at-large seats. For a vacancy in a district council seat, only the two at-large council members would nominate three candidates each.

Within four days, the nominees would have to submit their resumes, references and documents showing their qualifications and experience for the post. The ordinance would require all those records to be posted on the parish website. The council then would have two business days to hold a public meeting to review the submissions and interview the candidates. A second public council meeting would be held two days after the first one to hear public comments, deliberate on the candidates and vote on the appointment.

That’s an efficient and transparent process that can be completed within the 30-day deadline set in state law to make such appointments. The process also would give the public some input in the choice.

Just as important, Councilman Roberts’ ordinance would adopt evaluating criteria proposed by BGR. The criteria includes knowledge of how parish government works, an ability to develop and manage a budget, an ability to respond to public concerns and expertise in relevant fields such as law, accounting or public administration. These are important attributes to be an effective parish official.

Adopting this ordinance would be a significant step toward transparency in Jefferson Parish. Other metro area governments should adopt similar guidelines as well. Because of public hearing requirements, the Jefferson Parish Council may not be able to vote on this proposal for a few weeks. But council members can agree to begin using the process in the interim to name Mr. Young’s replacement.

That’s the openness parish residents expect and deserve.

Oct 15, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Jefferson Parish

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