In The News › Our recommendations on Jefferson charter propositions on the Dec. 6 ballot: Editorial

Our recommendations on Jefferson charter propositions on the Dec. 6 ballot: Editorial

By NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

November 21, 2014

The NOLA.com | Times-Picayune editorial board makes the following recommendations for the Dec. 6 ballot.

JEFFERSON PARISH

CHARTER PROPOSITION 1

To modify the Parish Council’s investigatory powers

Yes

This amendment would remove “unnecessary subjectivity” from the provision governing Parish Council investigations, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Governmental Research. The council’s power to punish an employee who fails to obey a “lawful order” would be clarified to pertain to orders made during an investigation. It also would remove incompetence as the basis for an investigation and would broaden the type of evidence that could be collected.

CHARTER PROPOSITION 2

To specify that the parish president is a full-time employee and cannot have outside employment and to prohibit the president or Parish Council from receiving sick leave or annual leave benefits

Yes

This is a reform in response to the scandal involving Aaron Broussard, who pleaded guilty in federal court to charges that included receiving bribes disguised as outside private legal work.

CHARTER PROPOSITION 3

To amend the layover period required for the adoption of ordinances and remove language that ties adoption of an ordinance to a specific publication date of the public notice

No

It is important for the public to have sufficient time to understand and respond to Parish Council proposals. This amendment maintains the requirement for the parish to publish notice of a proposed ordinance in the official journal. But it removes the requirement for that to be done at least one week before the date of a public hearing on the issue. As BGR notes, the removal of the time element could allow a new law or policy to be sprung on parish residents on very short notice.

CHARTER PROPOSITION 4

To clarify that the parish finance director has no control over the Law Enforcement District

Yes

This amendment is a housekeeping measure to make clear that the finance director has no authority over the Law Enforcement District, which is governed by the sheriff and is separate from parish government.

CHARTER PROPOSITION 5

To rename the Personnel Department the Civil Service Department, to modify the size and nominating process for the Civil Service Board, to impose term limits on the board and other revisions to the civil service system

No

There are some positive changes in this proposal, including the effort to broaden the membership of the Civil Service Board and give the inspector general control over his staff. But it also would have negative effects, including giving the Parish Council too much power over the parish president’s appointments to the board. It also would limit board members to a single five-year term, which seems overly restrictive.

CHARTER PROPOSITION 6

To make all employees in the parish attorney’s office unclassified, clarify the powers of the office and specify that the Parish Council can hire outside counsel

No

This proposition includes some positive changes, including giving the parish attorney more authority over hiring and firing of staff. But it also would increase the authority of the Parish Council, including unlimited power to hire special legal counsel. That could increase costs to taxpayers and allow patronage by the council.

CHARTER PROPOSITION 7

To allow the Parish Council to give policy-making duties to the Planning Advisory Board and Board of Zoning Adjustments and create other advisory boards deemed necessary

Yes

These are useful changes to the charter. Planning commissions in other parishes and cities generally have this broader authority.

CHARTER PROPOSITION 8

To allow funds remaining in the inspector general’s budget at the end of the budget year to carry over

Yes

This change would give the inspector general the ability to build up a reserve fund and should help with long-term budgeting.

CHARTER PROPOSITION 9

To correct the names of universities nominating members to the Ethics and Compliance Commission

Yes

This is a basic housekeeping change to update names for three universities that are outdated: Loyola University, Xavier University and the University of New Orleans.

CHARTER PROPOSITION 10

To provide that JEDCO and the parish hospital districts retain their current organizational structures and to impose restrictions on the use of money from the sale or lease of hospital district assets

No

Putting in place safeguards to protect the money received from a sale or lease of the parish’s two public hospitals is a good idea, but this proposition has troubling components. It would restrict changes to the management boards that run the hospitals and tighten the Parish Council’s control over the hospital districts. Given the political wrangling that infected the parish’s previous efforts to lease the hospitals, it is a bad idea to cut off the possibility of reforms. The proposition also gives the Parish Council control over hiring legal counsel for the hospital board and JEDCO, which would allow the council to interfere unnecessarily.

CHARTER PROPOSITION 11

To establish a repository for all Charter Advisory Committee records

Yes

This is a smart move to safeguard historical records of the advisory committee that recommends revisions to the charter.

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