In The News › Jefferson Parish charter board approves ban on outside income for parish president

Mar 18, 2013

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Contracting, Governance, Jefferson Parish

Jefferson Parish charter board approves ban on outside income for parish president

By Manuel Torres, | The Times-Picayune.
March 18, 2013

Jefferson Parish’s presidents would be banned from the kind of moonlighting that enabled the corruption of former Parish President Aaron Broussard, under a proposed charter amendment that won the endorsement of a charter review board Monday night. The board unanimously recommended a charter amendment to ban the parish president from receiving any outside income, other than gains from passive investments.

The proposal is to be referred to the Parish Council, which would have to endorse it for the change to make it to the ballot. Voters have the final say in any charter change.

Culminating weeks of discussion over the specific language, the Charter Advisory Board agreed to define the parish president as “a full-time official of the parish” who “shall work exclusively” for Jefferson. The provision would ban the president from doing consulting, professional work or any other form of outside employment. The recommendation allows the president to have “passive investments.” The proposed charter change would also expressly prohibit the president from receiving sick time and annual leave benefits.

The parish president’s job currently pays $137,743 a year.

The proposed charter change seeks to prevent the type of outside consulting jobs that Broussard used to masquerade what federal prosecutors said were bribes. Broussard is headed to prison for taking payments from a parish contractor in return for using his influential public position to steer private work to the contractor.

Council Chairman Chris Roberts and Council members Elton Lagasse and Cynthia Lee-Sheng have publicly endorsed the ban. So has Parish President John Young, who ran promising to clean up the stain left by the Broussard scandal.

Charter board members had voted unanimously last month to draft the ban, making it clear the proposal was likely to pass. But they had postponed a final vote as they tinkered with the specific language. Board members wanted to make sure the language would leave no doubt as to their intentions, or loopholes allowing a parish president to evade the outside-income ban.

In other issues Monday, the charter board:

- Postponed a debate on the administration’s proposal to change the Planning Advisory Board, which can only make recommendations to the Parish Council, into a Planning Commission with the power to make zoning decisions without council’s approval. The proposal, which would end one of the district council members’ most prized powers, would likely face an uphill battle in the council. – Briefly considered a proposal by board member Chereen Gegenheimer, mandating that the parish president’s appointee for finance director be ratified by the Parish Council. The council already has to ratify the appointment of nearly every parish director, and Gegenheimer said it should have the same prerogative in the case of the finance director. The charter board didn’t take a vote in the matter.

- Debated a proposal to transform the charter group, which can only make recommendations to the council, into a Charter Commission that would be able to send charter proposals directly to the ballot. Board member John Litchfield advocated for the change, saying it would give the public an easier avenue to send items to the ballot. But Gegenheimer and some other board members said the board should stay on an advisory role. The board took no vote on the matter.

- Listened to a presentation from the Bureau of Governmental Research, which asked the board to pass a charter recommendation that would take away the Parish Council’s power to select public contractors and transfer that responsibility to the parish president. In advocating for the changes, BGR’s President Janet Howard said the parish president is responsible for services and infrastructure in the parish, but is stuck with contractors selected by the council.

“This level of council involvement is highly unusual, particularly for a government that has a popularly elected executive,” BGR said in a letter to the board. “It creates a misalignment between contracting powers and responsibility for the day-to-day administration of parish government.”

BGR also recommended that the council set a transparent and competitive contracting process for the president to follow, including a requirement that no-bid contracts be awarded only to the highest scoring firm in technical evaluations. Charter board members have been reluctant, in general, to transfer powers from the council to the administration.

Mar 18, 2013

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Contracting, Governance, Jefferson Parish

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