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."
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Google vs. Amazon in drone race; more deaths in Syria; Russia escalates Ukraine conflict and more national and international news for Friday, August 29, 2014.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.