St. Charles Herald-Guide

Council hires lawyer to fight for lobbyist

By Jonathan Menard - May 10, 2013

The St. Charles Parish Council has hired attorney Tim Marcel to represent them against Parish President V.J. St. Pierre concerning his refusal to sign a lobbying contract with Tauzin Consultants.

In March, the council approved a 33-month contract with Tauzin for governmental affairs representation, but St. Pierre vetoed the contract because he said the council is not allowed to enter into professional services contracts without his support. The council overrode the veto, but St. Pierre has said that he has no intention of ever signing the contract.

In the councilís resolution, they say they chose to hire outside counsel because Leon "Sunny" Vial, who is the parishís director of legal services, is representing St. Pierre.

After St. Pierre told the council that he would not sign Tauzinís contract in April, Councilman Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux authored a resolution asking St. Pierre to reconsider his veto. Instead of reconsidering, St. Pierre vetoed the resolution in time for Mondayís meeting.

In his veto message, St. Pierre says that the council has made many insistent and passionate pleas on behalf of Tauzin but has given no reason to dispel St. Pierreís displeasure with the firmís performance.

St. Pierre said that when he would speak to officials in Washington, D.C., they did not know anything about parish projects. St. Pierre also said that Tauzin reported he had talked to some officials, but when St. Pierre spoke to those same officials they told him they hadnít heard from Tauzin in months.

St. Pierreís veto message also asks why the council wants Tauzin, and no other firm, to represent the parish.

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.

Many council members said they were happy with the job that Tauzin did and that the firm will be relied on to help the parish fight new FEMA flood maps that will greatly increase insurance costs for parish residents if they go into effect.

Councilwoman Mary Tastet said that the firm can also help the parish find funding for a much-needed levee on the West Bank.

"If this is what we need to get a levee, this is what we need to go with," Tastet said.

Councilman Larry Cochran said that the firm has already paid big dividends for the parish by helping secure $2 million in mitigation costs from the state.

While six council members voted in favor of Marcelís hiring, Councilwomen Carolyn Schexnaydre and Traci Fletcher voted against it.

Schexnaydre said that the council has already set aside $100,000 in a lawsuit to fight for Luling businessman Neal Cluleeís selection as a member of the Aviation Board.

She called the councilís decision to hire Marcel a "total waste of money."

Marcel said that it is impossible to determine how much money the council will have to pay him to resolve the matter, but that he didnít believe it would cost much at all.

"This doesnít seem like something that will take long to handle, but itís impossible to tell" Marcel said. "The issue is pretty narrow, though."

Marcel's rate is $175 an hour.

Cochran also doesnít believe the legal battle will be drawn out, and said that the council has to do something or risk setting a dangerous precedent.

"If we donít resolve this, then the next time V..J. doesnít want to do anything he will veto it. Then if we override the veto, he will still not do it," Cochran said. "The council is of the opinion that we need to get some resolution to this."

Council hires lawyer to fight for lobbyist