The St. Charles Parish Council will consider hiring an attorney to take Parish President V.J. St. Pierre to court over his refusal to sign a contract with lobbying firm Tauzin Consultants.
The council originally voted to hire Tauzin Consultants in March, but St. Pierre vetoed the decision because he said the parish’s Home Rule Charter doesn’t allow the council to enter into professional services contracts.
After a heated debate that included personal attacks made on both sides of the argument, the council overturned St. Pierre’s veto on April 8 in a 6-3 vote. However, St. Pierre still has not signed the contract with Tauzin Consultants.
Parish spokeswoman Renee Simpson said that St. Pierre has no intention to sign the contract, but has not ruled out issuing a request for proposals for lobbying services.
While Councilman Paul Hogan agreed with St. Pierre’s assertion that the council shouldn’t have the power to enter into professional services contracts, he is authoring a resolution that will ask the council to hire special legal counsel to represent them in order to compel St. Pierre to sign the contract.
If the contract is still not signed in two weeks, the council will vote on Hogan’s resolution to hire an attorney.
Hogan says he has gotten calls from several concerned residents in his district who believe the parish needs a lobbying firm now more than ever.
Hogan’s district encompasses an area of the parish where many residents face increased insurance costs if new FEMA flood maps are approved by the council.
When Tauzin Consultants’ contract was first approved by the council, Hogan voted against it due to the fact that the contract period was for 33 months.
However, Councilwoman Julia Fisher-Perrier and Councilman Terrell Wilson will introduce an amended ordinance on Monday that would shorten Tauzin Consultants’ contract to one year.
"I think that hiring for a 12-month period in light of the current situation would be more helpful than hiring a new firm that has to be brought up to speed," Hogan said. "The parish president would like to hire a different firm. I would like to see him get one lined up and have them brought up to speed for the one year we have Tauzin on board."
Fisher-Perrier says the goal of her amended ordinance is to offer a compromise.
"We are in desperate need of getting (Tauzin Consultants) on board to work with us," she said.
She added that members of St. Pierre’s own staff support hiring Tauzin Consultants.
"The people who work for the administration and get work done are saying we need Tauzin Consultants," Fisher-Perrier said.
Councilman Larry Cochran said despite the fact that Tauzin Consultants does not have a signed contract with the parish, Tom Tauzin was at the parish’s town hall meeting on Monday.
"With all the FEMA stuff going on, we need someone in Washington now more than ever," Cochran said.
Tauzin has represented the parish for the last two years at a base salary of $10,000 a month plus $750 a month in expenses.
Letter attempts to clear up
misconceptions about firm
In a letter to St. Pierre and members of the St. Charles Parish Council, Tom Tauzin attempted to clear up what he called misconceptions about his firm’s work for the parish.
Along with the fact that St. Pierre believes the council crossed the line when they hired Tauzin Consultants, he also said he was unhappy with the work the firm had done.
St. Pierre said that when he would speak to officials in Washington, D.C., they didn’t know anything about parish projects. St. Pierre also said that Tauzin reported that he had talked to some officials, but when St. Pierre spoke to those same officials they told him they hadn’t heard from Tauzin in months.
Perhaps the biggest statement St. Pierre made about the firm was that they had nothing to do with $2 million the parish received from the state in mitigation funding.
Tauzin took issue with St. Pierre’s statement.
"As to whether or not we played an effective role in securing plus $2M from the state for the parish’s general funds, call or email Garret Graves at CPRA (Coastal Protection Restoration Authority) if you have any doubts," Tauzin wrote. "Garret will surely attest to the more than a dozen calls with his organization, LA DNR (Department of Natural Resources under both secretaries Angelle then Chustz) and the Governor’s office (both chiefs of staff Waquespack then Rainwater) in which we led in our effort to successfully find a solution to the proposed increase in mitigation cost for Phase III (Ellington)."
St. Charles Parish also issued a release in March that credited Tauzin Consultants and other state organizations with helping the parish secure the permit for the third phase of the West Bank levee.
Councilwoman Carolyn Schexnaydre also stated at the April 8 meeting that Tauzin Consultants has only one client – St. Charles Parish. However, Tauzin provided St. Pierre and the council with a list of 18 other agencies that the firm represents.
"At my dinner with Councilman (Paul) Hogan and Councilwoman (Carolyn) Schexnaydre a few weeks ago, I said that we had only one ‘public client’ (on which my father corrected me this morning as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce falls in this category)," Tauzin wrote. "I made that statement as a positive way of showing that our efforts regarding federal appropriations are made solely on behalf of St. Charles Parish and its primary objective, West Bank Hurricane Protection."
Tauzin also answered to the fact that both St. Pierre and Schexnaydre said they had little contact with his firm. Tauzin said that’s because he thought it was best to have a single point of contact.
"Soon after we were hired by the parish, I spoke with a number of individuals in various parish government positions about finding a single person that was willing to rise above your elected officials’ differences and for the good of the parish’s citizens, serve as our single point of contact," Tauzin wrote. "This was not to suggest we were making ourselves unavailable to you individually, but to ensure that information flowed to and from ALL of you in an organized and transparent fashion. As you all know, Holly Fonseca was given that role and she served that parish as best she could (very well in my humble opinion)."
Fonseca gave each council member a three-page list detailing Tauzin Consultants’ actions since the firm was hired by the parish two years ago. Several council members were impressed with what the firm had accomplished. Wilson said he has personally seen the good work that Tauzin Consultants has done and said that losing the momentum the firm has gained would be detrimental to the parish. However, St. Pierre said he could dispute half of the list that council members received from Fonseca.
|Lobbyist Tom Tauzin speaks with Councilman Larry Cochran and Bayou Gauche resident Cathy Porthouse at Monday's town hall meeting.|