In The News › Showdown imminent over Jefferson Parish contract procedures

Showdown imminent over Jefferson Parish contract procedures

By Ben Myers
CityBusiness

The Jefferson Parish Council will soon consider an ordinance to reverse course on a change implemented last year that excludes price as a consideration in certain procurement processes.

The proposal could also put more power in the hands of the administration when it comes to selecting contractors.

Parish President John Young, speaking after a Bureau of Governmental Research forum on parish contracting, said today he expects the ordinance to appear on the council’s Dec. 12 agenda. The measure, at the very least, is likely to reflect the recommendation of BGR, a nonprofit government watchdog organization, that “requests for proposals” weigh price along with other factors.

Part of the rationale for eliminating price is to weed out incompetent respondents, but BGR says considering minimum technical criteria ahead of price will alleviate this concern.

“The change may have been enacted with the best of intentions, but it unfortunately removes firms’ incentive to offer their most competitive prices,” the BGR stated in a May report that was critical of parish contracting procedures.

It also cautions that negating price allows room for favoritism.

Jefferson Parish Council Chairman Elton Lagasse said the ordinance will appear soon but did not specify which meeting. Lagasse didn’t express opposition to weighing price but offered sharp disagreement with Young and the BGR when it comes to another contracting issue — placing the executive branch in control of selection.

The council’s power to select contracts is “abnormal” and creates a “misalignment of powers,” according to the BGR.

“The problem is grossly exacerbated by the practice of deferring to the councilmember in whose district the contracted service will be performed,” the report states.

Contracting expert Michael Purdy said in this morning’s forum that the council’s power over selection violates best practices and opens the door for abuse. Young said executive control is “Civics 101.”

“If the executive branch has the responsibility for executing the contract, then they ought to have the authority, at least through the tech committee,” Young said.

Young was referring to administration-appointed committees that rank bids. Nothing in the present system requires the council to affirm committee recommendations.

Lagasse claimed the council typically bases its choices on committee recommendations. However, he said, the BGR and Young ignore the parish’s form of government, which he described as “councilmatic” as opposed to “mayoral.” Young is seeking “total say so,” Lagasse said.

“I will never agree to just letting the administration pick all the contractors,” Lagasse said. “There’s no reason for us if we do that.”

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