The third time was the charm for St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre, who finally had one of his vetoes stand regarding lobbying firm Tauzin Consultants.
Two similar St. Pierre vetoes were overridden by the Parish Council, but this time the council was unable to muster enough votes to override. They needed six votes, but with Councilman Terrell Wilson absent, council members Carolyn Schexnaydre, Tracy Fletcher and Billy Woodruff all voted to keep St. Pierre’s veto intact, leaving only five voting against it.
The ordinance St. Pierre successfully vetoed on Monday was approved by the council on May 20, when they directed and mandated St. Pierre to sign a contract with Tauzin Consultants, something St. Pierre has refused to do since March. The firm represented the parish for the previous two years at a cost of $10,000 a month plus $750 a month in expenses.
The council said the strongly worded ordinance was necessary in order to take St. Pierre to court over his refusal to sign the contract.
Many council members believe that Tauzin is important in the parish’s fight against new FEMA flood maps and the Biggert-Waters Act, which could combine to cause flood insurance costs to skyrocket.
However, in his most recent veto message, St. Pierre said the parish has better avenues to fight those increases.
"It is painfully apparent to the public that some members of the Council believe that without Tauzin Consultants, LLC. as lobbyist the sky would fall and our doom will have been met," he said. "That is a gross misconception and there are more and better lobbyists to be had for the asking."
St. Pierre said there are already two lobbyists working for the parish through Greater New Orleans, Inc., which promotes economic development for the Greater New Orleans region. He also pointed to recent legislation that could amend the Biggert-Waters Act to relieve insurance premium problems.
"There is a bill to place this matter on hold for five years so there is no immediate need for further Washington representation and no need to pay a lawyer public funds for an unnecessary purpose," St. Pierre said. "That lawsuit could go on for two years before a final result might be reached at a rate of $175 per hour in lawyer’s fees."
The council hired attorney Tim Marcel in order to compel St. Pierre to sign the contract after the council overrode two previous vetoes dealing with the issue. 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 didn’t believe it would cost much at all.
"This doesn’t seem like something that will take long to handle, but it’s impossible to tell," Marcel said. "The issue is pretty narrow, though."
Marcel’s rate is $175 an hour.
Councilman Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux took issue with St. Pierre’s statement that there isn’t a need for a lobbyist.
"That is totally unacceptable. I don’t know who is giving you guidance that we need no further Washington representation over the Biggert-Waters Act, but that is nowhere near the truth."
Faucheux added that if the parish is currently represented by two Greater New Orleans Inc. lobbyists, as St. Pierre claimed, then he will ask for a full report from the lobbyists on where the parish stands on funding for a West Bank levee.
Councilman Larry Cochran doesn’t believe a legal battle over St. Pierre’s refusal to sign the contract will be drawn out and said that the council has to do something or risk setting a dangerous precedent.
"If we don’t resolve this, then the next time V.J. doesn’t 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."
Cochran told St. Pierre it is ludicrous for him not to sign the contract.
"This is the basis of the charter," he said. "This is what you fought for in Vietnam."
Cochran said that the council will introduce another ordinance at their next meeting mandating St. Pierre to sign the lobbying contract.