Term limits, smaller parish council recommended in Tangipahoa

The Tangipahoa Parish Home Rule Charter committee is recommending reducing the number of Parish Council districts from 10 to nine and adopting term limits for the parish president and Parish Council members.

The committee also is recommending requiring the Parish Council to appoint a chief administrative officer and take away the parish president’s power of a line-item veto.

If the Parish Council agrees with the recommendations, the proposed changes would be put before the voters on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Committee members Duncan Kemp and Leonard Joiner argued at Tuesday’s meeting against reducing the districts, noting that the only reason for a nine-member council would be to avoid tie votes. Kemp said that in 30 years the parish has been governed under the charter, tie votes have occurred only a few times.

“You are trying to correct a minor problem by creating a much larger one,” Kemp said. “If we change the districts, new lines will have to be drawn, population surveys will have to be made and you will reduce the number of representatives the citizens have.”

However, committee Chairman Tony Licciardi pointed out the Tangipahoa Parish School Board has nine members and those district lines could probably be followed.

The committee voted 6-3 to send the proposal forward.

On term limits, the committee proposes that council members and the president be allowed to serve three consecutive four-year terms, then sit out one term before being allowed to run again.

The charter does not set term limits. Gordon Burgess has been elected parish president in every election since the charter was approved.

Several council members have served four or more terms on the council.

The committee also recommends altering the language of the charter as it relates to a chief administrative officer. The charter states the council “may” appoint and hire a chief administrative officer.

The committee recommends changing that to “shall.” The Parish Council has never chosen to name a chief administrative officer since the charter’s adoption.

Kemp contends the committee is forcing the council to do something “which they have never seen a necessity to do. … If the council wants to appoint a CAO, then they can do it. … If they don’t think it necessary, then they don’t have to.”

But, committee member Melvin McElwee argued that a CAO would fill in on those times when the parish president is not available because of illness or travel.

The committee also recommends taking away line item veto power from the parish president but reserving the president’s right to veto a proposed budget outright.

The 11 members of the charter committee were appointed last year and the group has been meeting for nine months. The committee has a deadline of May 27 to offer its final recommendations to the parish council.