In The News › Inspector proposal merits close look

Jan 24, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: City Government, Governance, Jefferson Parish

Inspector proposal merits close look

Sunday, January 24, 2010
By Drew Broach
The Times-Picayune

Tom Capella has a resolution for Wednesday’s Jefferson Parish Council meeting to consider establishing an inspector general’s office.

Surely you have just spit out your coffee. For you have been conditioned to think that council members have already called each other privately, agreed to create the job later this year and promised it to a crony.

Put it on the agenda for a public meeting? Seek public input? Ask outsiders for advice?

What is this: good government?

But let us take Capella at his word. Perhaps the council is turning over a new leaf, having been slammed when six of its seven members (John Young the exception) conferred privately upon Aaron Broussard’s resignation to install Steve Theriot as acting parish president.

If that process stunk, the outcome has yet to disappoint. Theriot is an accountant by training, knows the inner workings of government and spent some time nominally rooting out the usual “waste, fraud and corruption” while serving as Louisiana’s legislative auditor.

He retired in November, so he was looking for work. He’ll be parish president until the fall, when Jefferson Parish elects a new one.

Does Jefferson now need an inspector general locally to do what Theriot was charged with doing on the state level?

It’s not a slam-dunk proposition.

Clearly Jefferson is host to some waste, fraud and corruption. All large governments are susceptible, and over the past three months the Broussard administration has been shown to be quite hospitable to hanky-panky.

A well financed, politically independent inspector general’s office led by a modern-day Eliot Ness in a green eyeshade might be just the answer. It could clean house now and keep everyone in line in the future.

Yet is Jefferson Parish in any position to be expanding the size of its government?

Staffing and equipping an inspector general’s office isn’t cheap. A couple of lawyers, a few accountants, clerical staff, computers and cars — you’re talking $1 million a year, minimum.

And how much more can an IG improve parish government beyond what outsiders — the Metropolitan Crime Commission, the news media, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office — are already doing? (Note that none of these rely solely for financing on the local taxpayer.)

These are the kinds of questions that Jefferson Parish will consider in the coming weeks.

Capella’s resolution calls for the crime commission, the Jefferson Business Council, the Bureau of Governmental Research and the East Jefferson and West Jefferson civic coalitions each to appoint one person to an advisory committee. It would help define the job of inspector general and recommend a source of money to run the office.

The committee would have a deadline of Aug. 18, at which point the final decision would rest with the council.

Interestingly enough, that date falls in the middle of the campaign for parish president, a race likely to include both Young, who raised the idea of inspector general right after Broussard resigned, and Capella, who is sponsoring the resolution moving the idea forward. The election is Oct. 2.

Theriot’s name won’t be on the ballot; for the parish charter forbids the acting parish president to run for the position.

Thus he will be out of a job come fall. One wonders what position the council could create for him next.

Jan 24, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: City Government, Governance, Jefferson Parish

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