Well, it’s about time someone in Parish government had an “Aha Moment”. Fortunately, Val Bracy of Fox8 was there to capture the moment and the heated debate:
The Jefferson Parish Personnel Board is widening its investigation into potentially unethical activity by employees. The board revealed at Wednesday’s meeting that some parish attorney’s are now under investigation.
The board’s investigation of employees began last month. The board is looking into whether former Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson and former Code Enforcement Director Debbie Villio participated in prohibited political activity.
The board is also investigating Aaron Broussard’s ex-wife Karen Parker, who was paid as a Paralegal Supervisor although she actually worked as a clerk in another department.
The Parish Attorney’s Office says the board does not have jurisdiction to investigate unclassified employees. “My interpretation is that the Code can not supersede the Charter. The Charter says that they have no jurisdiction over employees in the unclassified service,” said Deputy Parish Attorney Louis Gruntz.
The board says Gruntz is comparing apples and oranges. “Why, why would the parish attorney think it’s in any body’s best interest to shut down an investigation at this point,” said board member John Combe.
Gruntz told the board that council members instructed him to fight the jurisdiction issue. Combe says he’ll have to hear that directly from the council. “Until the Parish Council and or the Parish President come to me and say, ‘we think you’re wrong get out of the way’ we’re gonna continue to try our best efforts to get this thing done,” said Combe.
Councilman Chris Roberts says the dispute may have to be resolved by a judge. “We need to get to the bottom of what the actual Charter reads and what the ordinances state,” said Roberts.
Here it comes:
Despite the jurisdiction disagreement, the board is now investigating some parish attorneys and seemed skeptical about sharing information with the Parish Attorney’s Office. “This is not a blanket indictment, but I am concerned that there may be problems in the Jefferson Parish Attorney’s Office which make our investigation much more difficult than it should be. I am very concerned about information that is coming to me from the Parish Attorney’s Office,” said Combe.
Aha, now it’s out, better late than never but Gruntz grunted long enough that Board member John Combe finally spit it out – “problems [sic] in the Jefferson Parish Attorney’s Office…make our investigation more difficult than it should be”. Tell us, Mr. Combe, do those “problems” have a name?
Board members admit they don’t have the authority to penalize unclassified employees, but say parish law does make them responsible for investigating potential wrong-doing by any employee. Combe says he doesn’t think the new investigation the board is doing into parish attorneys will reveal any widespread wrongdoing and he says Anne Marie Vandenweghe, who the parish put on paid leave last month, is not one of the attorneys in question.
In another development, a source tells Fox 8 that the parish received another federal subpoena Tuesday. This one asking for information related to the contract for clean-up of the Yenni building after Katrina. We’re told the school board, which may have used the same company, also received that subpoena
Keep digging, Val! If this “new investigation” doesn’t reveal “widespread wrongdoing”, there’s more “wrongdoing” to investigate.