Most council members say the new policy, developed by a special council committee over the past five months, should help public perception of how tax dollars are spent. But Councilman Chris Williams dismisses the new policies and procedures manual as petty public relations.
"I think it's just blowing smoke at the public," Williams says. "It may make people forget about Hawaii, but it just doesn't have anything that substantive in it. If the public buys it, I guess they'll feel better about their tax dollars."
Earlier this month, city firefighters showed up at a council meeting in Hawaiian shirts to protest how the council downgraded the firefighters' pay plan while five of the council's nine members planned to attend a county government meeting in Hawaii this July. (All councilmen are granted just more than $4,000 annually for their job-related travel expenses.)
The new PPM requires finance committee approval of any rental car expenses and puts tighter restrictions on meal reimbursements, including a strict no-alcohol policy. The regulations also put a monthly cap of $50 on all telecommunications expenses for councilmen, including their phone, fax and Internet expenses. Williams and Councilmen Lenwood Broussard and Dale Bourgeois are the only council members who collect on their cell phone expenses. Last December, Broussard's cell phone tab alone was $119. Williams and Broussard topped all other council members in 2003 with expenses totaling more than $6,000 each. Broussard's expenses that year included an $80 meal at Hooters with other council members and staff to celebrate passing the 2003-2004 budget.
"I felt we just needed to firm up the guidelines," says Councilman Bruce Conque, who first suggested the council review its expense reimbursement policy last year. "I think it assures the tax payers of the parish more accountability than they've had in the past on how we spend public dollars."
Conque says the committee ' which includes himself, Williams, Marc Mouton and Dale Bourgeois ' developed the new rules by looking at the policies in place for other state and parish officials. Menard forwarded the final draft to all council members. Menard says the council adopted the PPM after six members signed off on it last week. Those councilmen include Menard, Conque, Bourgeois, Mouton, Rob Stevenson and Bobby Badeaux.
Williams says the final draft was not a committee report since he was still reviewing the document for changes when it was adopted. He wanted to revisit the telecom expenses and ensure all government employees outside the council were subject to the same rules.
"They did what they wanted to do," says Williams. "This has been the mode of operation for these guys. Part of it is a lot of grandstanding and giving people what they want to hear. These people are political animals. That's the mode of operation of Randy Menard and his clones."
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Michael Sam focuses on making the team; Christians flee Mosul; Kerry at work in Middle East and more national and international news for Wednesdays, July 23, 2014.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Unlike those swindled by Bernie Madoff, the victims of Texas businessman Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme won’t be getting any relief from the Securities Investor Protection Corp.’s emergency fund after a recent appellate court ruling.
The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010.
The lone Democrat to announce he's running for governor, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, criticized Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics as "running the state like a big Ponzi scheme."
State police have arrested a 42-year-old Kaplan man in the July 7 hit and run fatality crash that killed a bicyclist on Louisiana Highway 92 near Milton.
Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy has picked up support for his U.S. Senate campaign from a former GOP competitor.
Lisa Hargis Smith lived a mysterious life as seen with her death earlier this month and its impact on the community of those who knew her, whether as a star student in Lafayette High’s class of ‘69, or later as a woman struggling with homelessness and mental illness.
Attorney Valerie Gotch Garrett will announce on Tuesday that she plans to run for the Division E seat of the 15th Judicial District Court.
Back in 2012, three Baton Rouge attorneys came to the aid of several disgruntled police officers with a high-profile lawsuit against the Lafayette Police chief and a number of higher-ups in city-parish government, but in a federal courtroom Thursday, their claims of conspiracy coupled with a lack of evidence backfired and the case was dismissed.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration intends to rework how it pays the private managed care networks that provide health services to two-thirds of Louisiana's Medicaid patients.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration is raising health insurance rates and cutting benefits for state employees and retirees, to keep their insurance program solvent.
Local, state and federal law enforcement officials spent much of Thursday reviewing their reaction to this week’s bomb threat, which led to the closure and evacuation of UL Lafayette and Girard Park, and a massive search Wednesday for two alleged explosive devices.
"We're not in a better place from the policy perspective than we were two weeks ago," says Education Superintendent John White, commenting on Thursday's face-to-face meeting with Gov. Bobby Jindal to discuss their dispute over Common Core.
Gov. Bobby Jindal appears to remain unmoved by offers of a compromise on procuring testing materials tied to the Common Core based on a terse statement his office released following a meeting Thursday with Superintendent John White.