In The News › Jefferson Parish Charter Advisory Board schedules public hearings for input

Jul 12, 2012

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Contracting, Ethics, Governance, Jefferson Parish

Jefferson Parish Charter Advisory Board schedules public hearings for input

By Bob Ross
The Times-Picayune

A panel of 15 residents has begun the decennial process of reviewing the Jefferson Parish Charter, the parish’s governing document. Two public hearings have been scheduled to solicit ideas for potential changes to the charter.

The Charter Advisory Board has met three times this year, said Chairman Louis Gruntz, who spent 30 years as an assistant parish attorney before retiring in 2011.

Gruntz, appointed by Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse, was selected to head up the group during its first meeting. In subsequent gatherings, members have learned about the state’s public record laws and received a general introduction from Parish Attorney Deborah Foshee.

Members have scheduled public hearings on July 31 at the council chamber in the Joseph S. Yenni Parish Building, 1221 Elmwood Park Blvd., Elmwood, and Aug. 2 at the council chamber in the General Government Building, 200 Derbigny St., in Gretna. Both begin at 7 p.m.

“We’re hoping to see if there is anything urgent the public hopes to do with this current charter,” Gruntz said.

So far, the board’s work has been very low-key, Gruntz said. His only instructions from Lagasse were to “just do my best. He said that he is basically OK with the status quo of the charter.”

Previous advisory boards reviewed the charter in 1992 and 2002. The earlier group decided to go over the document line by line, while 2002 board took a limited approach.

“In 2002 they looked at specific things they wanted to address, and I think that’s probably going to be the way we approach this.”

The Charter Advisory Board has a year from its first meeting to submit any proposed charter changes to the Parish Council, Gruntz said. The group need not submit any changes, and the Parish Council has the discretion to decide whether the board’s proposals are even placed on a ballot for voters.

Ten years ago, the charter group recommended eliminating one of the six council districts and adding a second at-large district. The council put the issue on the ballot, and voters approved the change.

But a proposal for council members and the parish president to seek a third term in office was rejected by voters, who had approved two-term limits 10 years earlier. That amendment did not come from the Charter Advisory Board but from the council itself.
Last year, the charter was amended to include an inspector general’s office. That did not involve a charter advisory board.

One issued raised by the Bureau of Governmental Research is the way professional services contracts are chosen in the parish. These contracts are not awarded based on the lowest bid, and although a committee evaluates each of the proposals, council members have the discretion to choose any company they want.

BGR, in a special report issued in May, said most companies that receive professional contracts in the parish are major donors. It is unclear if the charter advisory board will consider this issue. Council Chairman Elton Lagasse responded to the report by saying he was not in favor of changing the system.

Gruntz said he has not heard any recent suggestions for high-profile changes to the charter. “There may be some tweaking to do” he said, though it appears most will be “largely procedural things.”

Jul 12, 2012

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Contracting, Ethics, Governance, Jefferson Parish

Fair Use Notice

This site occasionally reprints copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues and to highlight the accomplishments of our affiliates. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is available without profit. For more information go to: US CODE: Title 17,107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.