Proposed ordinance on limiting executive appointments withdrawn

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 15, 2010



EDGARD – After a bit of tension from the overflow crowd inside the St. John the Baptist Parish Courthouse, Division A Councilman-at-Large Dale Wolfe on Tuesday removed an ordinance he proposed that would have limited the number of executive assistants for incoming Parish President Natalie Robottom.

The ordinance, introduced at the previous St. John Parish Council meeting, would have allowed the parish president to have only two appointed executive assistants not needing council ratification. The parish charter currently sets no limit to the number of executive appointments. Before he resigned from office, former Parish President Bill Hubbard had seven appointed assistants.

During a public discussion period, a number of parish residents expressed their disapproval of the ordinance, saying it handcuffed the incoming parish president.

“It suggests that we are not going to give the same support to (Robottom) that we gave to the last parish president,” said Geri Baloney of Garyville. “It sends a backwards message to the people of the parish.”

Baloney inferred that Wolfe might have made a decision in the heat of battle as he was competing with Robottom in the runoff election earlier this month. She, along with St. John Assessor Whitney Joseph and a number of other residents, encouraged the council to table the ordinance.

Wolfe said he proposed the ordinance prior to the runoff election and said it had nothing to do with any bad blood between himself and Robottom.

“This is about having some accountability in the administration,” Wolfe said. “I’m not going to hinder (Robottom). I’m here to work with her.”

Robottom told the council she has not had time to assess all of the people currently in position in the administration and said she is not prepared to make any immediate decisions. She said she would not be committed to seven assistants but said she is considering having five. At that point, Wolfe chose to remove the ordinance from consideration.

In other action, the council approved an ordinance that set a monthly travel allowance of $800 should the parish president elect to use her own vehicle for official parish business.

The ordinance, which was approved unanimously, indicated the allowance would cover all expenses of the vehicle, including fuel, tires, maintenance, repairs, parts and insurance.

The parish administration introduced the ordinance in response to a recent legislative audit on the parish that alleged improper spending by former Parish President Bill Hubbard. The report indicated that Hubbard used parish credit cards for fuel and other vehicle expenditures for his personal vehicle despite receiving more than $16,000 in monthly car and mileage allowances.

Council Chair Ronnie Smith said past practice in the parish has been to issue the $800 monthly stipend, but it was never adopted as an ordinance.

He said only the parish president is given the monthly allowance.