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."
Business organizations opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to job losses and higher prices for goods and services.
An attempt to repeal a six-year-old law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside a classroom's adopted textbook has been rejected by the Senate Education Committee.
New York Times poll shows Obama, Jindal have identical approval and disapproval ratings in the state.
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.