Clearly losing in the "Court of Public Opinion" and trying his best to pull out a victory after a string of political losses, Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn is trying a new tactic: offering a compromise which may still get Zahn his preferred result and allow his Band of 12 Malcontents to participate in his upcoming re-election campaign.
In a letter today (Tuesday, 8/1) to members of the Kenner City Council, Zahn discussed the lawsuit by the Malcontents and their attempt to overthrow the 2012 Charter Change which banned political activity by non-classified (political appointees) employees.
The Malcontents filed for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to allow them to participate in campaigns until the court had rendered a final verdict, which could occur long after the Spring 2018 elections.
While the Court ruled that the City could ban political activity by non-classified employees, they also ruled that the Charter Change was too vague and did not define "political activity".
Zahn is proposing that the Council introduce an ordinance that is similar to the Hatch Act, which bans certain political activity by Federal and some State employees.
The Hatch Act bans political activity during working hours; in government offices; while using a government vehicle; and while wearing an official uniform. It also bans employees from wearing political buttons while on duty; from accepting or soliciting political contributions; and from soliciting or discouraging political activity of anyone with business before their agency.
The Hatch Act does not ban political activity during non-working hours; stop employees from attending political fundraisers or contributing money to candidates; or preclude employees from being members of political clubs or endorsement groups.
As I said, if the Council approves an ordinance similar to the Hatch Act, Zahn will still get what he wants and he secures a political victory by claiming that he upheld the Charter and the will of the people of Kenner.
"I propose this ordinance as an interim step to support the people's wishes until such time as a Charter Amendment can be put forth. If adopted by you, we will then argue in the Permanent Injunction that the plaintiffs' claims as we now have in force limitations which are constitutional," Zahn wrote.
But why stop there?
Why not include additional activities that the Hatch Act doesn't cover like being members of the multitude of fake Endorsement groups out there or banning employees from contributing to campaigns or attending fundraisers?
When he was in office, for JP Parish President Aaron Broussard would routinely pass the hat and expect campaign contributions from his political appointees. And Broussard wasn't alone.
If you have 40+ political appointees as Zahn does (and that figure grows almost daily), and they each give a max $2,500 donation ($5,000 if there's a runoff), Zahn would receive $100-200k from his political appointees alone.
$2,500 or even $5,000 is a small price to pay to keep an $80-100k per year job with government benefits and a taxpayer-funded pension.
Of course, if Zahn or the Council were to take these additional steps, that wouldn't help the Zahn Campaign as much.
And, regardless of what he says or writes, we all know by now that Ben Zahn is all about Ben Zahn.
In closing his letter, Zahn continued to defend his Malcontents.
"Finally, when we do address this in public, I am reminded that the plaintiffs are our employees and many are our constituents. We work with them on a daily basis and they continue to be dedicated to their work for the citizens of Kenner. We may not agree with their opinions about government but we must support their right to express their opinions about government. The right to petition government for redress of grievances has been part of the United States Constitution since 1791. We can respectfully disagree, with, I hope, the emphasis on respect," Zahn wrote.
Gee, thanks for the lesson in Constitutional Government there Ben but, I think you really should spend some time with your Malcontents, particularly Stephen Petit, regarding the "respect" portion.
Again, regardless of what you say or write Ben, YOUR APPOINTEES clearly don't understand the meaning of the word "RESPECT" when it comes to members of the Council or the people of Kenner.
In fact, I sincerely doubt that you do either Ben.