The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will consider an introductory ordinance that would require future extensions of Consolidated Government’s contract with Redflex be submitted to the council for approval. The ordinance was submitted by Distict 9 Councilman William Theriot, who during a wrap-up session for the 2011-2012 budget questioned City-Parish President Joey Durel’s exercise of a clause in the original four-year contract allowing for one-year extensions of the contract.
The contract with Redflex, which operates the traffic signal cameras and speed vans on city streets, was signed in 2007 and was set to expire in June of this year. But last spring the Durel administration activated a one-year extension of the contract. City-Parish attorney Mike Hebert, upon Theriot’s urging, later released an opinion essentially clearing Durel and future city-parish presidents to exercise the one-year extension clause. Hebert’s opinion hinged in part on whether the RedFlex contract constitutes a “franchise” with LCG. The Lafayette Home Rule Charter stipulates that franchises can only be granted or extended by ordinance, which is a function of the council.
Prior to Hebert’s opinion siding with Durel, former assistant city attorney Lester Gauthier issued an opinion decreeing the contract extension in violation of the Home Rule Charter, arguing that the contract is indeed a franchise and that such transactions with outside vendors must be signed by the city-parish president, in this case Durel. The administration has acknowledged that an LCG clerk actually signed the extension, not Durel.
The RedFlex contract issue raises some important questions for the council and the administration. If Hebert’s reading of the contract and Home Rule Charter stand, then the original four-year contract with RedFlex is effectively open ended: Durel can presumably renew it again next year and in all future years he’s in office, and his successor can do the same. So is the original four-year contract really a perpetual contract? And, since the original contract was entered into through a resolution and ordinance voted on by a previous council — none of the current CPC members was in office in 2007 — can a previous council tie the current council’s hands and bind it to the contract?
As this newspaper has observed, an arrangement in which contracts activated by council ordinance — a requirement of the Home Rule Charter — can be extended indefinitely by the city-parish president leave such contract renewals vulnerable to cronyism and kick-back schemes. We’re not accusing Durel of that, but the situation is ripe for exploitation by politicians with fewer scruples, and Louisiana has had no small share of unscrupulous politicos.
Theriot’s ordinance is not retroactive — it only applies to the RedFlex contract and if approved would be triggered next year when the end of the one-year extension approaches. If the council approves the ordinance on Tuesday it will go before the council for final approval two weeks later. Durel, as LCG’s chief executive, has veto power over ordinances.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.