St. John Council votes to reinstate drug testing

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 31, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council voted unanimously to reinstate random drug testing on parish employees working in safety and security positions.

Council Chairman Joel McTopy introduced the topic to the Parish Council Tuesday night. He said a recommendation was made by the Civil Service Board to reinstate random drug testing.

McTopy explained how a previous drug testing ordinance was removed in 1999 because the policy proved to be too broad.

He recommended a new policy that would only require drug testing of new parish employees working in fields related to safety and security.

The Council agreed parish attorneys Barry Landry and Jeff Perilloux should rewrite the parish’s substance abuse ordinance so that it complied with Louisiana law.

After the new ordinance is written, it will be sent to the Civil Service Board for further review.

McTopy later explained that in 1999, a former drug testing policy was withdrawn and drug testing expenditures were removed from the parish budget.

“At that time, a woman filed a worker’s compensation policy to receive benefits for an injury she sustained. The woman was told she must submit to drug testing in order to receive compensation,” said McTopy. “She filed a complaint with the Parish Council. Her complaint led to the parish’s discontinuance of drug testing.”

McTopy said he was not seated on the Parish Council when the incident occurred. He also said the woman did not work in a safety-sensitive environment. “The old policy exceeded the perimeters of the state law.”

Drug testing an accident victim is designed to prove whether or not the worker was intoxicated or on drugs at the time of their mishap.

Councilman Scott Lee suggested the Council screen several drug testing agencies. “Let’s guarantee the parish a good price for this service.”

In a separate matter, McTopy asked the Council’s opinion on adopting a “Petition (with revisions) to address the Council.”

The subject was previously posed in a memorandum issued to the Council by McTopy on Jan. 12.

Fielding Council input on a new agenda templet for parish council meetings, McTopy asked the panel how they felt about requiring citizens to be placed on the council agenda before allowing them to address the Council during its regularly scheduled meeting.

He said a parish resident would be required to ask the Council in advance to be placed on an agenda for an upcoming meeting when they knew a certain topic would be discussed and they wished to engage the Council in dialogue on the matter.

If the citizens request was approved, he or she would be given a specific time slot and an allotted period of time in which to talk about the topic of interest.

Farlough said, “I don’t mind people coming up at random. However, it is common courtesy to let us know ahead of time what they wish to talk about.”

He further added that putting a time limit on each item a citizen wished to address would reduce unruliness and would organize protests and soliciting.

Councilman Sean Roussel said, “If a citizen wanted an answer to a specific question, they could place the question on the agenda. We, the council, would be better prepared to discuss what they put on the agenda. We could prepare our answers ahead of time.”

Councilman Steve Lee said that while he liked the idea, he did not think St. John the Baptist Parish was ready for this type change.

“That is how St. Charles Parish conducts their meetings and it works extremely well for them. However, I do not feel we are ready for this just yet,” said Lee.

Councilman Dale Wolfe said he felt parish meetings were for the people and that they should not be restricted in speech.

After the brief exchange of ideas, the Council decided to leave the matter alone for now.