Parish cancels contract with lobbyist

Parish President V.J. St. Pierre has cancelled a contract with lobbying firm Egle and Associates.

The council originally voted to hire Egle and Associates, which is headed by former Lafourche Parish President Richard Egle, in January 2009. Egle was St. Pierre’s top choice for the post because of the success he had helping former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard secure funding for safe houses.

Though Egle was instrumental in securing the funding, he was never officially employed by Jefferson Parish and had never lobbied for a government entity before being hired by St. Charles.

From Jan. 21, 2009 until Jan. 31, 2010, Egle and Associates earned $100,000. They were also eligible for business expenses that could not exceed $1,000 per month without the approval of St. Pierre or his designee.

The firm’s contract was automatically renewed on Jan. 31, but St. Pierre sent a letter to Egle canceling it on June 16.

That made a July 12 council ordinance, which would have canceled Egle’s contract, unnecessary.

“We gave (Egle) a year and he really didn’t get anything for us,” Councilman Shelley Tastet said. “We dropped the ball because we didn’t know that the contract would automatically renew, but we wanted to terminate the contract now so that we could go after someone else.”

Tastet said that every parish needs a lobbyist, and that he believes St. Charles should pay more money to attract someone with “clout.”

“To get things done in Washington, you have to have clout, and (Egle) just didn’t have it,” Tastet said. “When we hired him, I thought he would help us get a levee permit for the West Bank alignment, but he never got us any closer.
“We just kept hearing the same thing from him over and over.”

Councilman Larry Cochran said he wanted the parish to hire a lobbyist last year, but was hoping that Egle would come before the council and tell them just what he planned on accomplishing in Washington before his firm was hired. Cochran said that never happened.

“That’s why I voted against it in 2009… I just wasn’t impressed,” he said.

Egle and Associates was hired by a slim 5-4 vote.

Cochran, who said he decided to give Egle a chance, became concerned after reading the lobbyist’s monthly reports to the parish.

In his December report, Egle said that he visited all of the Louisiana congressional offices that represent St. Charles and thanked them for everything they had done. He also told them he looked forward to continue that progress in 2010.
“Within the gift limits, I delivered homemade pralines and holiday well wishes to each office and had an opportunity to meet with both Senator Vitter and Landrieu,” Egle wrote. “In Senator Landrieu’s office I was also invited to a staff gathering to bid farewell to a departing fellow in the office and I made a large batch of bread pudding.

“It was devoured and appreciated.”

A couple of the reports were only a paragraph long, including one from February.

“In February, I discussed with the parish’s US Senators and Congressmen’s staff the coming appropriation request season,” Egle wrote. “Based on circumstances and meetings in the previous months, we were able to guide the parish on which projects stand the best chance for success. Worked with council staff to submit appropriation requests to the delegation.”

Cochran said reports like the ones above left much to be desired, and he just doesn’t believe that Egle was the right man for the job.

“Mr. Egle is a very nice man and I like him as a person, but he just couldn’t get it done,” Cochran said.

Councilman Dennis Nuss agrees, saying that Egle’s monthly reports didn’t have a lot of “meat” to them.

“To be a successful lobbyist, you have to have a lot of influence across both parties and be able to work with key people in other states,” Nuss said. “Mr. Egle focused a lot of his time on our representatives, but you hope that those people are already looking out for our parish’s best interests.

“You have to be able to get other people on board.”

But Nuss does believe that Egle did some good things for the parish, including reminding those in Washington of the importance of the area.

“I think he did a good job of building awareness about our parish and letting people know how important St. Charles is,” he said. “He also built some relationships, but I don’t feel like we were getting the right information from him.”

Cochran and Nuss both hope that the parish’s Legislative Committee will get the chance to interview interested lobbyists and bring them before the public to describe how they will go about securing funding.

“That way they can be held accountable if they aren’t able to get this parish money, because we are a very important parish” Cochran said. “It is crucial that we get a lobbyist to fight for this parish, but we need to interview several lobbyists so that we can make the best choice.”

 

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