BGR denounces levee board bill

A New Orleans-based government research group on Tuesday called for rejection of legislation that would give Gov. Bobby Jindal sweeping authority to remove members of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority.

“The expanded removal power would severely compromise the boards’ independence and reverse reforms intended to depoliticize and professionalize governance of the levee districts in the New Orleans area after the catastrophic levee failures in 2005,” the Bureau of Governmental Research wrote in an analysis released late Tuesday.

Senate Bill 79 sponsored by state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, would allow Jindal — at his sole discretion — to remove an authority commissioner for breach of duty, nonattendance as well as “violation of state law or public policy.”

It would allow the authority boards to do the same thing.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East has filed suit against 97 oil and gas companies seeking reimbursement for coastal damages. The lawsuit irked Jindal who has taken steps to try to derail the lawsuit as well as get rid of authority members who supported it.

“Allowing a governor to unilaterally remove board members on grounds as vague as violations of public policy exposes the two flood authorities’ boards to ongoing political pressure and intervention from the governor,” BGR wrote. “It would strike at the independence of the flood protection authorities.”

“With the threat of removal hanging over their heads, board members may give greater weight to what the governor wants than what they believe is the best course of action to protect the people and property in the levee districts they oversee.”