In The News › Task force on Tammany inspector general draws mixed reviews

Jun 5, 2013

Source: The Advocate

Filed under: Governance, Inspector General, St. Tammany Parish

Task force on Tammany inspector general draws mixed reviews

BY SARA PAGONES

The Advocate/St. Tammany bureau

June 05, 2013

Amid growing public demand in St. Tammany Parish for an inspector general office like those recently created in neighboring New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, the state Senate adopted a resolution this week, authored by state Sen. A.G. Crowe, that creates a 24-member task force to consider the idea.

The panel’s members, to be appointed by governing bodies, business groups and others, must be named by August and report back to the Legislature by March 2014.

The intention is to aim for a ballot measure in November of that year, Crowe said.

The Senate action follows a growing public demand for an inspector general, which has intensified following a spending scandal at the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office, which is being investigated by a federal grand jury and the Legislative Auditor’s Office.

A recent Bureau of Governmental Research briefing on how to create an inspector general’s office, held in Covington, drew a packed house.

At that time, Crowe said he would introduce legislation to create the office, but that didn’t happen because of what he described as concerns with the parish home rule charter and state Constitution.

But his solution — the task force — is drawing some mixed reviews. Belinda Parker Brown of Louisiana United International, an anti-discrimination group, said she is outraged by the lack of minority organizations who have been selected to appoint members to the panel.

“We make up pretty close to 15 percent,’’ she said of St. Tammany’s African American population. “That’s enough to have representation on a major decision like the IG,’’ she said.

Rick Franzo of Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany said he’s concerned that the group’s large size will make it difficult to come to agreement on what should be done. He’s also worried that not all the appointees will have a good understanding of the issues.

His group, which has been pushing for an inspector general since late 2011, has two slots on the panel, and Franzo said he is naming Carl Ernst, a retired military officer who has experience as an inspector general, and Jim Blazek, who is the group’s legal counsel.

Ernst said that he has heard that one or two people who will likely be appointed to the task force don’t even think there’s a need for an inspector general.

Crowe defended the panel, however. He said that he wanted to have a good cross section of the private and public sectors. He also wanted to be sure that all parishwide governing bodies had an appointment — even though he said it has raised some eyebrows that the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office is included.

All of St. Tammany’s municipalities have slots on the panel, as does the district attorney, tax assessor, clerk of court and superintendent of schools.

While St. Tammany Parish is taking a different approach to creating the office than Orleans or Jefferson, Crowe said that it will be “the most thoroughly vetted process.’’

Franzo said the resolution is “better than no approach, and the way I look at it is, no one else is stepping up, and we have to be engaged in it.’’

But he said his group will not compromise on what it believes is the right way to set up the office and won’t support spending tax dollars if it’s “just for show.’’

Jun 5, 2013

Source: The Advocate

Filed under: Governance, Inspector General, St. Tammany Parish

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