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."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)