St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre has vetoed the Parish Council’s decision to award a new, 33-month contract to lobbying firm Tauzin Consultants.
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. The new contract awarded by the council on March 25 was for 33 months at the same rate, which was an increase of $96,750 above the prior two-year contract.
At a recent council meeting, Tom Tauzin said that his firm was instrumental in securing $2 million in mitigation reimbursement from the state. The lobbying firm also assisted the parish with efforts to obtain FEMA assistance following Hurricane Isaac and is currently helping the parish lobby against new FEMA flood maps that could take affect next year. The maps would drastically increase flood insurance cost for many on the West Bank.
Councilwoman Wendy Benedetto said that Tauzin Consultants recently helped set up a town hall meeting on April 15 to discuss the FEMA flood maps.
"The veto is not making sense to me," Benedetto said. "We need Tauzin Consultants more than ever to be behind us with this FEMA crap. I call it crap because that’s what it is."
Benedetto said that Tauzin has gone above and beyond to help the parish and that they are St. Charles’ biggest asset in Washington, D.C.
"It really has me upset that (St. Pierre) will veto this and hopefully he changes his mind before the meeting," she said.
Councilman Larry Cochran added that Tauzin Consultants is needed to help the parish secure funding for a West Bank levee. The parish recently received the final permit for the three-phase project.
"We are shovel ready with all the permits and now we need the money," he said. "(Tauzin’s) contract is not worth that much and I believe what we did was right. Whatever it takes to get this levee, we have to go after it."
The council voted to approve Tauzin’s contract in a 7-2 vote, with council members Paul Hogan and Carolyn Schexnaydre voting against the measure.
Schexnaydre took issue with the status reports the firm provides.
"I have gotten little information from them for the last two years," Schexnaydre said.
She added that there is no explanation for what the expense money is used for and that she personally has had little contact with Tauzin representatives.
Councilman Paul Hogan also said he was against hiring Tauzin Consultants due to the length of the contract. Two years ago, Hogan took issue with any contract that covered more than a year and said he would not support a contract for 33 months.
In St. Pierre’s veto message, he wrote that according to the parish’s Home Rule Charter, "the Council cannot grant contracts nor can it compel the Parish President to grant or sign a contract."
During the meeting on March 25, the council introduced an ordinance to hire Tauzin Consultants without St. Pierre’s support.
Cochran and Benedetto both said that St. Pierre’s veto message didn’t seem to make sense because the council votes on and passes contracts all the time and will vote on a number of contracts at Monday’s meeting.
However parish attorney Leon "Sunny" Vial said that the Home Rule Charter only allows the council to approve contracts, not hire a firm on their own.
"There are all kinds of professional service contracts that V.J. (St. Pierre) can enter in to, but the council can only approve those contracts," Vial said. "The only person the council can hire is their secretary."
The council will vote on whether or not to override St. Pierre’s veto on Monday, April 8. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the St. Charles Parish Courthouse in the council chambers.