After saying last week that he had no intention of signing a contract with Tauzin Consultants, Parish President V.J. St. Pierre held firm despite pleas from residents who said a lobbying firm is needed to fight the prospect of high flood insurance.
The council originally voted to re-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. St. Pierre also said that he has had limited contact with Tauzin and that he doesn’t believe the firm did a good job during their previous two-year contract with St. Charles.
After a heated debate, 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.
At Monday’s meeting, council members Julia Fisher-Perrier and Terrell Wilson offered a compromise by introducing an amendment that would shorten Tauzin’s contract from 33 months to one year. Several residents who face increased insurance costs if new FEMA flood maps are approved also urged St. Pierre to sign.
"It makes common sense that we have someone speaking for us in Washington," David Wedge, of Bayou Gauche, told St. Pierre. "I don’t get what we’re doing here. This is our livelihood. You are messing with our homes."
Wedge said he emailed Tauzin Consultants and received all correspondence the firm had with the parish in 2011 and 2012.
"There were well over 100 entries between the parish and Tauzin," Wedge said. "We should be using any means possible. Just tell us you are going to sign the contract and be done with it."
Cory Savoie, of Luling, also told the council that the Home Rule Charter does give them the power to enter into contracts, despite St. Pierre’s argument against that fact.
Fisher-Perrier said that St. Pierre signed a contract under similar circumstances two years ago and that there is nothing in the Home Rule Charter that prevents the council from entering into contracts.
"We need the Tauzin group to help us get West Bank levees," she said.
Despite Fisher-Perrier’s emotional speech, St. Pierre reiterated that he would not sign a contract with Tauzin Consultants.
After Fisher-Perrier pulled her own ordinance from discussion, Councilman Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux introduced a resolution asking St. Pierre to sign the contract. Faucheux said the firm will be needed to deal with the Water Resources Development Act that could negatively affect parish residents. Councilman Larry Cochran that while he was at first against hiring a lobbyist, he has seen the doors that Tauzin has opened for parish officials when they visit Washington.
The only council member against approving the resolution was Carolyn Schexnaydre. She held up a bill from Tauzin that just listed a dollar amount to be paid without any explanation for what the firm did to earn that money. She told the crowd that they should instead want the money the parish planned to spend on a lobbyist to be used towards construction of a West Bank levee.
However, Wilson told Schexnaydre that St. Pierre also wants a lobbyist, just not Tauzin.
"So we are going to be spending money on a lobbyist, we just don’t know which one," he said.
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 by their next meeting, 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.