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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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Council wants control of Community Action agency

Council wants control of Community Action agency

The Lafourche Parish Council met Tuesday Jan. 13th to consider its first agenda of 2015, approving several actions dealing with the Office of Community Action.

The Council passed a resolution ratifying new bylaws for Community Action’s agency, advisory board and program.

It also moved a proposed ordinance rescinding Ordinance 3480--a 2004 measure which gave authority to supervise, manage and direct the Community Action Agency and its Executive Director to the parish president, parish administrator and director of the Department of Community Services.

This measure will be voted on at the next public meeting on Jan. 27.

The proposed ordinance and several resolutions dealing with Community Action seek to take away authority over the agency from parish administration, including the parish president.

The Office of Community Action has as its main function the easing and/or elimination of the conditions and causes of poverty in the parish by administering programs designed to help those in need. It has come under fire from members of the Council for misuse of grant money and lack of guidance by its Advisory Board.

The new bylaws now more clearly define who governs the agency and the makeup of its Advisory Board.
The board will now be composed of 15-18 members (instead of 31) and will possess the power and responsibility delegated to it by the Parish Council, including selecting an executive director.

One of the board’s major problems in the past was its inability to hold a meeting because of lack of quorum. It convened only two meetings in 2014 despite its obligation to hold at least four per year.

Councilman Jerry Jones, himself an Advisory Board member, contends that some actions by administration dealing with Community Action, such as the approval of contracts, have been done without the Advisory Board's oversight.

Whereas the parish president had power under the previous bylaws to hire, supervise and dismiss employees in Community Action including its executive director, the new bylaws clearly give all of these powers and duties to the Parish Council, and the Advisory Board.

Parish President Charlotte Randolph argued Tuesday that the new bylaws, sent to the state for approval, were found by the state to have actions which were against state statute and therefore are unlawful and cannot be enforced.

“Because of two previous resolutions, you would not operate under any bylaws,” she said.
Jones described the “actions” which Randolph referred to as minor, correctable issues.

“The state gave us kudos. The problem is, the state told you that you don’t have anything to do with Community Action,” Jones said.

Jones assured the Council that the next Advisory Board meeting on January 26 will address those corrections.

Councilman Daniel Lorraine, then asked Mr. Paul Chiquet, Advisory Board member and chairman of the committee which drafted the new bylaws, to explain how the bylaws will work in the near future.

“Bylaws were passed in 2005. We rescinded the 2005 bylaws tonight. We now revert back to 2003 bylaws. The state is asking us to pass the new ones tonight, and correct them in 30 days. Until then, we will be acting on the bylaws of 2003. We can go to meetings, fix the new ones, and come back to council on authority of 2003,” said Chiquet.

Randolph also argued that as a result of recent consultations with the District Attorney the legality of the bylaws is in question.

But Chiquet said he has not seen anything addressed to the advisory board by the DA regarding bylaws.

The vote on the resolution to ratify the new bylaws was 8-1 with Councilman Phillip Gouaux dissenting.