Charter amendment for full time parish president delayed
Councilman Dale Rogers last month introduced an ordinance that would send a proposition to the ballot in October, 2018 making the parish president a full-time position with a salary increase from $12,000 a year to $78,000.
When the ordinance was considered by the council Wednesday, council members James Bennett and Glen Hidalgo motioned to table. That motion failed 6-4 with one absent member, Sterling Fryou.
Rogers then motioned for adoption with a second from Councilman Paul Naquin.
“I think everybody agrees on the concept of a full-time parish president,” Rogers said. “So I decided to put something together…we contacted individual council members to set the salary.”
Rogers said the salary would reflect a full-time position, “Like (Parish President David Hanagriff) does now. It’s been sitting out for three weeks, for anyone to look it over, to call me, to come up with some ideas. I do not have a problem with this ordnance being amended.”
He said he’s been told to wait on the ordinance, but said passing an ordinance can “get it out there” and open dialogue for possible future modification.
Rogers said the ballot item could be placed in the Oct. 18, 2018 election roster.
“We are behind other parishes, and we have been for years, because we haven’t stepped up” to make a change, Rogers said. “We’d just as soon go sit in Washington, DC, because that’s what they do, and you see how the public treats those guys. We are leaders, we’re here to lead.”
Councilman Patrick Hebert then offered an amendment to the ordinance making the parish president the actual director of economic development without approval of the council, effectively doing away with the current position that has been in effect since the charter was put into effect in the early 1980s.
He said the parish president should be the face of that initiative. “We’re already paying for economic development, we can save that money.”
Hanagriff said there should be time to inform the public and gain support. “I think it’s brash right now,” he said. Hanagriff said the notion of passing the ordinance and discussing it afterward isn’t “the responsible thing to do.”
He added, “We need to get a proper ordinance and do our job right. I ask the council not to vote on this tonight, come back, and do the proper work.”
Legal counsel Eric Duplantis said the amendment, as proposed, is problematic in that it likely violates of the open meetings law “because the public has not had an opportunity” to consider the amendments. The original intent of holding over a proposed ordinance for 30 days is to allow public scrutiny and input into such actions, he said.
Hebert withdrew his amendment.
Councilman Craig Mathews said he does not object to a full-time president, but he has concerns that the exact duties of that position are not spelled out sufficiently. “It appears to me that we’ve taken a dollar figure and just put it in to amend the charter,” he said. “That’s not the proper to transition from a part-time to full-time parish president, without knowing what the scope of those duties will be.”
He said there are possibly other positions in the administration that could also be eliminated.
“As a voter, I’m not going to vote for this, and I’m not going to encourage people to vote for it as it is,” Mathews said.
Councilman J Ina said he also believes there are positions that could be consolidated or changed. He asked what sort of time frame Hanagriff thinks is suitable. “I don’t want to be sitting here at the end of my term,” and there has been no resolution to the issue.
Hanagriff said Rogers and others in support should gather more information, both within the parish and outside, to gain the trust of the voters.
Special council meetings could be held to discuss the proposal, Hanagriff said.
“We need to show the citizens of this parish that we all agree that we need to move in this direction,” Rogers said.
Rogers withdrew his motion.