Council, Ricks quarrel over hiring decision
LIVINGSTON — The Livingston Parish Council once again took no action on the parish’s road overlay project Tuesday at a hastily called and bizarre special council meeting.
The council was set to discuss requests for qualifications for the parish’s 2013 road overlay project at its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, but some council members became livid with Parish President Layton Ricks after Ricks told the council he had hired an engineer for the project without telling the council.
The council took no action Thursday on the requests for qualifications, or RFQs. Council Chairman Marshall Harris on Monday called a special meeting for Tuesday to re-discuss the RFQs.
But once again, the council took no action on the project Tuesday after Councilwoman Sonya Collins questioned the legitimacy of the request for qualifications template that had been drafted.
The special meeting began with Ricks and council members essentially apologizing to each other for publicly arguing at the last council meeting.
Ricks told the council Tuesday he found a well-qualified engineer in BKI of New Orleans and that the home rule charter and previous attorney general’s opinions support his ability to hire an engineer without council approval.
“Your obligation at this point is to fund a capital outlay program so we can move forward with the road program,” he said. “Outside of that, I’m really not here to argue with you about anything.”
Ricks said he thought the council was trying to take his office out of the process. He asked members to table discussion on the road overlay project and discuss it with him.
Harris said he simply wanted to publish RFQs to find the best qualified firm for the road project.
“No one on the council is trying to argue,” Harris said. “We’re just trying to get the best quality job and the best person to do the job for the parish.”
Councilman Ricky Goff told Ricks that the parish needs to hire an engineer that all council members are comfortable with. He said Ricks’ contract with BKI amounts to only a gentlemen’s agreement.
Councilman Jim Norred pointed to an ordinance that says any signed contract must be sent to the Parish Council.
Norred, as did other council members, said both sides must work together to have the road project completed.
“If we can’t work together, none of us are going to get re-elected,” he said.
Parent said what Ricks did amounted to a “stab in the back.”
“If we had that opportunity, maybe we would have worked together on this engineering issue,” Parent said. “We just never had that opportunity.”
Collins later began asking council members who drafted the template for the requests for qualifications.
Norred said he and Parent put it together using similar plans from Ascension Parish. Parent said he contacted engineers in Livingston, Tangipahoa and Ascension parishes about the template.
Collins then said she found an author’s name of D. Murphy somewhere on the document. She said it could be the name of an engineer who had previously drafted an RFQ for another parish.
She said it was a conflict of interest for an engineer to write the template because that engineer could then write a proposal with the exact specifications required.
Councilmen Delos Blackwell said that if any engineer had anything to do with the RFQ template, then the special meeting should be adjourned. Norred and Collins agreed, saying the process had become tainted.
Collins then gave a speech about council members not trusting each other and said Parent and Norred lied about how the template was drafted.
“I can’t even tell y’all the truth, because I don’t know what’s going to happen to it,” she said. “And y’all feel like y’all can’t tell me the truth, because y’all don’t know what I’m going to do with it.”
The council then moved on to debating the parish’s road priority list, which it already adopted at the last council meeting.