Heated meeting of Jefferson Parish Personnel Board with Parish Attorney has “Aha Moment”

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:

Link to Fox 8 and hear 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.

18 thoughts on “Heated meeting of Jefferson Parish Personnel Board with Parish Attorney has “Aha Moment””

  1. I am familiar with the principals in the cleanup of the Yenni bldg. and some schools and libraries. It involved a local company, Certified Cleaning and Restoration. There were problems related to Mark Morgan’s ability to sign emergency contracts. Morgan signed the school contracts, Certified completed all the work quickly to get the schools open. This was under the watchful eye of Roussel. After the work was finished, Roussel decided not to pay because Morgan didn’t have authority to sign the contracts. This was a political move against Morgan and Certified got caught in the middle. The ensuing lawsuits cost the taxpayers dearly.
    There was an allegation of overcharging, but the rates are set by industry standards. Many national and International subcontactors were involved in getting the jobs done quickly. This was one of the first restoration jobs in the city, and was run by professionals. I would assume the rates were high compared to other jobs because they were done at set rates which later got driven down as more and more competitors arrived in town.
    Angered by the political moves of Roussel and others, Certified did not settle out like many other contractors and move on to the next disaster.

  2. Thanks, Unslabbed, it was even difficult to “maintain decorum” reading!

    The idea that Villio continues to hold herself out for public office shows the thin line between comedy and tragedy – and her total lack of respect for the citizens of the Parish. (Not to mention the idea of a judicial candidate with “big hair” suggests we’ve got front row seats at a Dolly Parton movie.)

  3. It’s obvious the JP Council wants this investigation to go away. Jefferson Parish doesn’t need to spend more money taking this thing before a judge, Mr. Roberts! The Personnel Board has already admitted that they have no authority to fire anyone so what are you afraid of? This is just another attempt to deflect attention away from the Council’s involvement in this web of corruption. I guess they think the rules don’t and shouldn’t apply to them.

  4. Maybe they’re just trying to keep a lid on things and get Villio elected so they can go back to the way they were (mis)conducting the people’s business…just a thought, nolakat.

  5. “The Personnel Board has the duty, authority and jurisdiction to investigate and bring a civil action for damages against ANY person, employee or former employee to recover on behalf of the parish any economic advantage illegally gained.”

    My thoughts exactly. To me a non-lawyer— These are basic legal principles which go back to Roman days when the “master” was responsible for those it hired to work for them. I wouldn’t care if the rules of Parish said the Personnel Board was prohibited from investigating the workers, the duty whould still exist. If the Parish didn’t create anouther lawfull vehicle to do the duty of supervision than the rule prohibiting the Personnel Board from supervising Parish Employee’s might itself be unlawfull and one which the Personnel Board should get a legal opinion from the proper higher authority(AG or Court). You cannot escape the duty to supervise those you employ. Good job.

    I think this is all a leadership problem. The CURRENT leadership seems to be leading the CURRENT employee’s down the wrong path. Heads should roll when games like this are played. This is not how the voters will regain confidence in the ability of the Parish to self correct their corruption problems. It indicates to me the Fed’s might need to assume supervision of the Parish.

  6. Nowdy that is the exact thought several observers mention having. The election is one weekend away and Gruntz effectively kept the Personnel Board from taking action on Villio thus buying her time. He is so entrenched with Villio and her gal pals ( Debra Miller Yenni being one-as you may recall Miller- Yenni was the Deputy Parish Attorney in charge of Administration responsible for the paralegals, including Parker-Broussard, before Peggy Barton took over circa2007 or so. Miller-Yenni also was implicated in the Whitmer scandals by Wilkinson, her former boss, when he said on camera that he sent her to Whitmer’s office to answer Ethics questions Whitmer had. Wilkinson fingered her as the ethics go-to girl. Makes one wonder if Villio got her ethics opinions from Miller-Yenni also considering Villio said on camera that the Parish Attorney told her she didn’t have to follow the Laws re Prohibited Political Activity. Villio did say she wouldn’t have broken those laws if she had had a crystal ball and knew she would run for Judge and that since the Parish Attorney said she could it was ok because ya know that was how it always was done. Uh ok. Nowdy, if Pelican told you it was ok for you to speed through school zones would you believe him? And would you say oops Pelican said I could when the police stopped you? And would you think you should be excused because you did it on Pelican’s advice? Maybe Villio can sue Wilkinson’s professional liability insurance for his bad advice. Maybe we can all sue him for his bad advice which ended in the expensive and time consuming morass we find ourselves in.

  7. Steve. There is no rule on the books anywhere that says the Personnel Board cannot investigate Ethics violations. They can investigate they just cannot impose sanctions ( discharge). That is why the language re the Council holding a Public Hearing after the Personnel Board investigates was added to 23-2 et seq. There has to be a finding of violation and then the Council has to impose the discharge ( even if moot due to firing or resignation) before 23-118 can kick in and suit can be filed to recover for illegal economic gain. All the dinosaurs who are close to retirement , and who knew about all the violations but did not report them as required by the JP Charter and enabling ordinances and rules and regs , cannot afford to have precedent set by the Personnel Board of suing to recover illegally gained economic advantage because theoretically all their raises, bonuses, retirements etc could be targeted if it was proved that but for their silence none of that would have been granted. I know that was a long run-on sentence but I was on a roll. The citizens of JP should demand that suit be filed against all the miscreants to recover all illegally gained economic advantage: don’t worry about winning or losing: think about the deterrance effect it would have; think about recouping some of the costs associated with all these investigations and subpoena returns and all the collateral costs; think about getting tax dollars back. Dream, dream dream dream.

  8. Pelican, Placide and I had comprised a haughty and heady post relating to the goings on of the stymied modus operandi of Mr. Gruntz to maintain the entitlement modus vivendi of his clients, Mr. Theriot and the Jefferson Parish Council. And considering deBrief had to restrain me, having read that Mr. Roberts, that pusillanimous parrot whose fulsome comment about judicial review only added fodder to Mr. Gruntz’s maneuvering to impede, with subterfuge, the legislatively charged duty of the Personnel Board, we decided to have another sip of Rebel Yell and chill.

    It’s just this simple: all of the wrangling and finagling by Mr. Theriot, his Administrative Assts., Mr. Gruntz, and the JP Council et al to stonewall during a Federal investigation is suggestive of obstruction of justice. We only need to critique the present backward policy and unprofessional administration of dealing with Public Records Requests to give evidence of this assertion.

    Mr. Combe and the other members of the Personnel Board, and administrator, are to be commended for their adherence to the sworn duty to uphold the law, as the onslaught of misguided legal abuse by Mr. Gruntz and political pressure by the JP Council to do otherwise is wielded.

    Yes, tomorrow is another day, and I intend to fully expound on the topic of Obstruction of Justice as we (Pelican, Placide and I ) understand it’s possible and potential application relating to WHITMERGATE.

  9. Unslabbed,

    Pourriez-vous nous indiquer la sortie ?

    Vous m’avez fait decouvrir un monde entierement nouveau.

  10. jpgoodfella,

    Are you referring to the same Mr. Morgan who is on the JP School Board; the same Mr. Morgan who is City Attorney for Gretna; and the same Mr. Morgan who receives $10,000 of thousands of dollars in curatorships from judges in the 24th JDC ? Is this who you are writing an apologetic for ?

  11. Whitmergate, I am not apologizing for Morgan at all. I don’t know him. I know that he was aggressively seeking to restore the schools in his district immediately after the storm. He signed contacts to begin the work. This may have been to look like a hero–I don’t know his motives. He signed the contracts and work began. The school board superintendent, Roussel, knew that those schools were being remediated and was happy with the pace and quality of the work. Then, upon completion, Roussel says we’re not paying because the amount is too high and Morgan didn’t have the right to sign the contracts. This while accepting praise for getting the schools open so swiftly. I saw it as a move against Morgan politically. But the people who suffer are those who did the work. They have to sue to get paid. Eventually they were paid after a prolonged court battle. Now those same men who worked to restore the schools are being dragged into this parish-wide scandal.

  12. ” All the dinosaurs who are close to retirement , and who knew about all the violations but did not report them as required by the JP Charter and enabling ordinances and rules and regs , cannot afford to have precedent set by the Personnel Board of suing to recover illegally gained economic advantage because theoretically all their raises, bonuses, retirements etc could be targeted if it was proved that but for their silence none of that would have been granted.”

    That is what makes the Parish corruption problems so hard to self correct. New players are put on the dole early on in their careers. They work their way into the system and are already dirty. Fictional example. A guy graduates from law school. He has no insurance. Would a part-time gig at the Parish give him the thing he needs most—health insurance? I don’t know. A little steady money and health insurance. The job requires little to no work. He feels good but is already a captured man into the system. This allows the older players to trust him with getting more into the game etc. It stops the young pups from attacking the older players and allows the old dogs time to eat to their hearts desire on the fat of the Parish. Younger players feel they will one day be allowed to do the same as the old dogs and support the old dogs in their selfish feast on tax payers money. In reality on a few of the younger dogs will ever become a old dog who gorges at the public’s expense. But they don’t know it till its too late, they are dirty, old used up fools. Just a possible way not based on insider knowledge. Old dogs are dirty too and do like sockie says. The ticket to the dance is stamped in dirt.

  13. Hmmmmm! This sounds familiar, like the real life story of “Big Dog” Alario and “Lil’ Pup” Theriot………..

  14. Steve’s hypothet is incredible and dead-on. I’ve seen it unfold in JP. Nice analysis Bay Boy.

  15. How about this analogy: Taxpayer money is like crack cocaine to these retirement junkies in Jefferson Parish !

  16. Those photos of Wilkinson and Villio should be used as “MOST WANTED” posters to initiate a series of pics of those individuals who are principal players in the Jefferson Parish Scandals…

    Man I’m going to be as rich as these NGMFs…GretnaMentality Tours…The Parish Scandals reality series…and now art production of the MOST WANTED posters…

    deBrief, mon cousin, un autre Rebel Yell s’il vous pla

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