Parish President says not enough money budgeted for costly janitorial services contract

Published 12:15 am Saturday, December 15, 2018

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish does not have the money budgeted to pay for the expensive contract approved by Parish Council members to clean the newly constructed and unveiled St. John Government Complex Building, administrators say.

Situated at the corner of Airline Highway and Belle Terre Boulevard, the complex and its cleaning have taken center stage in a controversy spilling across the community and behind closed doors as parish leaders scramble to adjust to a Council-approved contract that charges local taxpayers an extra $140,000 a year more than the administration-recommended vendor.

“The motion was approved without the funds budgeted in the budget,” Parish President Natalie Robottom told Council members this week. “So, there are no funds to pay this contract. In violation of the charter, it was passed without use of an ordinance or resolution.”

Near the end of a lengthy meeting in which her veto motion was taken off the agenda, Robottom told Council members her concerns have not been addressed, including conflicting janitorial contract motions sent to her office.

During the Council’s Nov. 27 meeting, elected members voted 4-3 to award a janitorial contract, at $21,864 per month, to Star Maintenance in LaPlace, which was the highest bidder.

All the Time, which has been cleaning the building during construction, submitted a bid of $10,151 per month and was recommended by administration.

The motion to award the contract to Star Maintenance was approved by Council members Lennix Madere Jr., Kurt Becnel, Julia Remondet and Larry Sorapuru Jr.

Councilmen Marvin Perrilloux, Larry Snyder and Thomas Malik voted against it.

Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard and Councilman Michael Wright were in attendance but abstained.

With only seven participating Parish Council members, the contract needed only four votes to pass, which it garnered, according to legal counsel from the St. John District Attorney’s Office.

During discussion on the matter this week, Hotard and Wright said they did not know their abstentions would be counted as absences and did not think their abstentions would reduce the positive votes needed for passing from five to four — a sentiment shared by others on the Parish Council.

“Even if my vote is an abstention, I am still present at the meeting,” Hotard said. “That is where I am just not clear on it. I would like to be clear on it going forward so we can know.”

Hotard went on to say her abstention was, maybe, not the proper vote because she did not have a conflict of interest.

“I guess it is a lesson going forward,” Hotard said.

Wright said, previously, an abstention has not been deemed absent.

“There was no conflict of interest for myself,” Wright said.

“The vendor actually scored pretty high, I just could not justify the price. That was my reasoning for abstaining rather than voting against the firm, who was pretty qualified. I do think we still need to have some discussions moving forward and define what “present” is.”

Numerous Council sources told L’OBSERVATEUR one Council member who voted in favor of the project only did so because it was assumed four votes would not be enough for approval.

During the public input portion of Tuesday’s meeting, Angela Wells, representing All the Time Janitorial based in Franklinton, asked Council members to explain their vote.

Madere cut off Wells from asking any more questions regarding the contract, saying it was not on the agenda.

“We can’t talk about the company. We can only talk about Robert’s Rules of Orders,” said Madere, referring to an agenda item.

During discussion this week, Snyder said the Council needed to make clear with itself when and where it would defer to Robert’s Rules of Order for meeting procedures.

He said he would likely offer his own plan during the first meeting in January.

— By Richard Meek and Stephen Hemelt.