Slabbed has the scoop on something that happened 2 days ago? Absolutely we do as the historic event is something that would be so pedestrian elsewhere as to not merit a mention or second thought from my brother journalists on a typical government beat: For the first time in years the Parish council split 4-3 on an agenda item; one for professional services at that and we need to take a close looksie at the whole deal as it represents the first cracks in the legendary unity of the Jefferson Parish Council. I hope our readers can help Slabbed fill in some gaps.
Our first stop is the agenda for the last Parish Council meeting, specifically agenda item #10. If you click the agenda item in the pdf it will open a word document on how the agenda item would have translated had it passed but it didn’t. In fact the online agenda indicates it was approved and that is clearly wrong as the following video of the Parish Council meeting illustrates (around minute 2:45):
So now that we’ve all witnessed the first 4-3 council vote since Butch Ward was on the Parish Council (according to observers of Jefferson Parish Government that speak with Slabbed) we need a bit of background that makes all this even more of a head scratcher and for that we visit with Rich Rainey’s September 2, 2011 story “No bids for Jefferson Parish tech work; $1.7 million contract to stay with current vender”:
For 16 years, Barowka & Bonura Engineering Consultants has been managing Jefferson Parish’s computer systems. The company’s contract has been renewed so often that Parish President John Young said he wanted to see whether other companies could do the work for less.
“My general rule is we look at everything and if it’s something that should be advertized (to solicit proposals), we advertize,” he said.
In this case, however, the Parish Council disagreed. Without discussion Wednesday, the seven-member panel unanimously ordered the administration to negotiate another year-long deal with Barowka & Bonura. The relationship that started in 1994 with a $132,000 cap has since grown to $1.7 million.
This article has never been featured on Slabbed despite the fact some of my sources were jumping up and down pointing out the following snippet which is now ripe for examining:
Walt Barowka, a company principal, said his firm avoids politics where it can. However, Barowka & Bonura and its other principals, Tony and Jeffrey Bonura, have made significant campaign contributions to council members and Young.
“We pretty much support all the incumbents, because it’s the nature of the beast,” Barowka said.
Councilmen Louis Congemi and Elton Lagasse have received $8,000 each since 2003, campaign finance records show. Since 2009, Council Chairman Chris Roberts has received $6,000; Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng has received $2,250 and Young has taken in $5,000. Councilman Byron Lee has received $6,000 since 2005, records show.
“I think it’s unfortunate that a councilman has to spend three to four hundred thousand dollars to win an election,” Barowka said. “I’m sure that contractors like us are contributing to the problem, but I don’t know how to stop it. I’m just glad there are limits.”
At the time observers of Jefferson Parish politics thought being quoted saying such things in the paper was corporate suicide for Barowka & Bonura. Indeed it may well have been as we circle back to that Agenda Item #10 mentioned above:
Resolution – selecting a firm to provide computer services for the MIS and GIS Divisions of the Electronic Information Systems Department for a period of two years under RFP No. 0249. (Parishwide) (Approved by Mr. Roberts at the request of the Administration)
So here we are nine months after the Parish Council unaminously extended Barowka & Bonura’s contract and now 3 members of the Parish Council are ready to replace them in favor of a new company, New Era Information Technologies. Who is New Era? According to a seasoned observer of Jefferson Parish Politics:
The IT guy Campbell, finds a political operative, Terry Powers, to front for him…..
The observer then went on to detail certain legal problems Powers has/had and that his lawyer was/is current Harahan Mayor Vinnie Mosca. Needing more info my next stop was New Era’s contracting affidavits, obtained for Slabbed by the divine M&M sisters over at CFGG. Like Barowka and Bonura, Mr Campbell has spread around the campaign ca$h. We didn’t stop there though no siree as the divine M known as Margie did more sleuthing and found that in 2006/2007 Campbell gave Aaron Broussard $4,300, Tom Capella $7,000 from 2006-2011 among other notable Jefferson Parish Political Mafiasos that also include former Council member Louis Congemi, Paul Connick and of course, “Mini-Me” Chris Roberts. The ladies at CFGG did great work folks.
But I still was curious so I searched New Era over at the Secretary of State’s office and found another officer listed in New Era, one Donald Flores of River Ridge. Mr Flores owns Ultix Technologies, a company that is listed on the New Era website as being partners in the “New Era Group”. New Era is based in Kenner which is prime Goatherder territory so I decided to dig further so my next stop was the Ultix website which had this bio on Mr Flores:
After graduating from Louisiana State University with a B.S. in Computer Science in 1984, Mr. Flores began his career as a software developer for the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans, he then accepted a position as software developer, business analyst and systems administrator with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. His work having attracted offers of several independent software development and maintenance projects in the Greater New Orleans area, Mr. Flores founded Ultix Software, Inc. in 1989.
The RTA and Louisiana 5th Circuit Court of Appeals? This of course has inspired even more curiousity but it was there I ended the sleuthing.
To make this whole deal even more surreal Slabbed has learned the Parish’s evaluation committee recommended Barowka & Bonura get the contract thus the Parish council was again going against the wishes of the Young Administration. The 4-3 vote, historic in its own right coupled with recent history and active federal investigations into the operation of certain aspects of Parish Government tells me there is more to this story than meets the eye. I hope our readers can help fill in some of the blanks.