Citizens for Good Government issues statement on yesterday’s Jefferson Parish Council meeting
Supporters of Good Government:
Some of the issues which were brought up in speeches by Citizens for Good Government at the October 24th Jefferson Parish Council meeting were covered in an article on the Times-Picayune’s nola.com website by reporter Manuel Torres.
CFGG Chairman Margaret Baird talked about recommended changes in the way that routine engineering contracts, which cost less than $300,000, are awarded by the Jefferson Parish Council. She suggested that the council give serious consideration to the recommendations for reforming this process specified in the Bureau of Governmental Research’s recently-released report, “Reforming Jefferson Parish’s Unusual Approach to Service Contracting.” Margaret pointed out that the BGR recommendations have been ignored by the council.
Vice-Chairman Margie Seemann spoke about the newly-implemented Solicitation Affidavits, which require contractors to list the names of all elected officials who have solicited a campaign contribution from them by telephone or by personal contact during the previous two years and to list the approximate date of such solicitation.
Margie commended the councilmen for passing this ordinance, but she pointed out that the failure of the ordinance to require the Solicitation Affidavit to list the names of elected officials FOR WHOM solicitations for campaign contributions were made for them by others, such as their staff, a relative, or a campaign worker, was problematic. She suggested the passage of a new ordinance which would require the Solicitation Affidavit filed by the contractors to not only list the names of elected officials who solicited contributions from them, but to also list the names of elected officials for whom solicitations were made for them by others. Unfortunately, all of the councilmen who responded to the Times-Picayune reporter were opposed to our suggestion.
Margie also talked about some problems with way in which nonbid contracts are awarded that were brought to our attention by the Solicitation Affidavits. Here is the end of her speech:
“I would now like to focus on a Solicitation Affidavit for which the contractor listed six solicitations by councilmen since August 16, 2011. It is significant that this company also reported that they made campaign contributions to ALL of the councilman who solicited contributions, and according to their affidavit, the contributions were made on the VERY day that they reported the solicitations. Would this contractor have contributed to the campaigns of the councilmen had they not been solicited?
“This brings to mind an interesting scenario. Suppose a contractor intends to respond to a parish Request for Proposal or a Statement of Qualifications project, since he would like to win a parish contract. And SUPPOSE that a councilman calls him and asks him for a campaign contribution. KNOWING THAT THE COUNCIL SELECTS THE WINNING CONTRACTORS FOR THE PROJECTS THAT HE IS INTERESTED IN, COULD THIS CONTRACTOR SAY NO TO THE COUNCILMAN WHO IS ASKING HIM FOR A CONTRIBUTION?
“This scenario is so unseemly, that CFGG finds it hard to believe that it is legal, even though we know it is. IS IT POSSIBLE THAT CONTRACTORS FEEL PRESSURED TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGNS OF THE COUNCILMEN WHO SOLICIT THEM?
“This brings to mind the shocking quotes by a contractor about campaign contributions which were reported in the Times-Picayune in September 2011. Contractor Walt Barowka said, ‘We pretty much support all the incumbents, because it’s the nature of the beast.’ And ‘I’m sure that contractors like us are contributing to the problem, but I don’t know how to stop it. I’m just glad there are limits.’
“The Solicitation Affidavits just convince us even more that the council needs to give SERIOUS CONSIDERATION to the recommendations in the Bureau of Governmental Research report. CFGG is in complete agreement with BGR that our elected officials should NOT have the power to select the winners of nonbid contracts. For contracts which use an evaluation committee, BGR states: ‘best practices indicate that governments should select the firm that performs best on an evaluation committee’s scoring of relevant criteria.’ Citizens for Good Government enthusiastically agrees.”
Vice-Chairman, Citizens for Good Government