Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Watchdog Group Shines A Light On JP Council Contract Decision

The watchdog group, Citizens For Good Government (CFGG), is once again shining a light on yet another Jefferson Parish contract that was awarded to the lowest-scoring bidder. The Jefferson Parish Council can ignore recommendations from an Evaluation Committee designed to rank bidders in an attempt at transparency and award contracts at their discretion.

At the August 14th JP council meeting, the council voted to select the firm Burglass & Tankersley for legal work despite the fact that the company’s score of 299 was lower than Gaudry, Ranson, Higgins & Gremillion (327) and Jones Walker (314).

Equally interesting is the fact that 3 Jefferson Parish Councilmembers, District 1 Councilman Ricky Templet, District 3 Councilman Mark Spears, and Councilman-At-Large Elton Lagasse, comprise the Legal Evaluation Committee.

If judged just on their perception of the company’s past performance on parish contracts, all three Councilmen scored Burglass & Tankersley below the perfect 10 scores that they gave Gaudry and Jones Walker.

What’s frustrating to CFGG is that Councilman Lagasse was the Councilman who offered the legislation awarding the contract to Burglass & Tankersley.

This is just further confirmation that the “unfettered discretion” of the council in selecting the winners of non-bid contracts needs to be reformed,” CFGG Vice Chairman Margie Seemann wrote in an email. “As things currently stand, the Evaluation Committees are apparently a waste of time, since the councilmen are free to ignore their evaluations and pick any firm that they desire for any reason that they desire.”

CFGG also pointed out the fact that Burglass and Tankersley was the largest political contributor to members of the Jefferson Parish Council giving the members of the Council $10,400 in the past 4 years. Guadry, Ranson contributed $9,000 while Jones Walker gave councilmembers $5,650.

ClickJefferson.com agrees with CFGG that the ethics reforms promised to Jefferson Parish residents after the Aaron Broussard scandal have been weak or nonexistent. How can an Evaluation Committee be independent and transparent when it is composed of Councilmen who receive contributions from the contractors that they are evaluating?

On Nola.com, Council President Chris Roberts claimed that the reason Burglass & Tankersley was awarded the contract was because the other two firms had conflicts of interest.

We’re not buying that excuse.

If there truly is a “conflict of interest” why were the two firms allowed to be evaluated for this contract on August 1st by the Legal Evaluation Committee in the first place? The evaluation wasn’t done months ago – it was completed 13 days before the Council voted to approve the contract. Surely, since the members of the Legal Evaluation Committee ranked the firms based upon their past work with Parish contract, they were aware of the contracts that these firms had and continue to have with the Parish.

Sorry Councilman, when 1 firm contributes to all 7 councilmembers, receives the lowest score by an “evaluation committee” comprised of 3 councilmembers, yet still receives a Parish contract there is a “conflict of interest” but not with the companies involved, the "conflict" is with the Council.

The only reason for the JP Council to ignore the recommendation of an Evaluation Committee and assert its discretion over the bidders is purely political and something that Jefferson Parish residents can afford no longer.

What is the point of having an “Evaluation Committee” if the Council ignores it even when the Committee is stacked with its own members?

So much for an open and transparent Jefferson Parish Council.