Councilmen want review of parish office

Two Metro Council members — both lawyers — say they want to form a committee to review the operations of Parish Attorney Mary Roper’s office.

Trae Welch and John Delgado have asked that an item be placed on the agenda for Wednesday’s council meeting to consider establishing the committee “to evaluate and assess the operations of the Parish Attorney’s Office and make recommendations to the council relating to same.”

Both insisted, however, that they have no desire to revisit the sometimes-acrimonious debate between Councilman Chandler Loupe, who is now mayor pro-tem, and Roper in 2009 and 2010, when Loupe said he wanted to replace Roper as parish attorney. The Parish Attorney’s Office is overseen by the Metro Council.

Welch and Delgado said they just want to conduct what they say should be regular oversight.

The parish attorney is appointed by the Metro Council and the office falls under the council’s supervision.

“We have a duty to oversee all of these agencies as a council,” Delgado said. “All areas overseen by the council should be checked out.”

Welch said he did not think Roper’s office was being poorly run.

“There is no concern about mismanagement or anything like that. We are just going to take a look and see how they are doing,” he said.

Delgado said it was natural for him and Welch to examine the Parish Attorney’s Office, since “as attorneys, we are better suited to oversee it.”

Welch said forming a committee was the best way to conduct the review.

“I don’t want to go in where it’s one council member saying show me your operations,” he said.

One area criticized by Loupe four years ago was the way attorneys in the Parish Attorney’s Office recorded the time they spent on cases they handle.

In an April 2010 letter, seven members of the Metro Council directed Roper to implement a calendar system to monitor the work of the attorneys in the office.

Delgado said such monitoring was of interest to him as well.

“Clearly a public attorney does not work in the same way as a private law firm does,” Delgado said. “In any law office, there are still standards of efficiency and excellence that should be maintained.”

Welch agreed.

“It’s a pretty big operation, honestly,” Welch said. “I think we need to look at it holistically.”

Welch, who was on the council when Loupe conducted his review, said he wanted to see if improvements had been made to the office’s efficiency.

“I know that was identified as a problem,” he said. “I would like to know what was done about that.”

When reached by phone, Roper said her office had complied with the council’s 2010 request.

“We use a software that tracks activity,” she said, adding that the parish attorney does not use the billing feature of the software. “We have timesheets that account for our time.”

Roper said she welcomed the committee’s input.

“I am open to anything that they want to look at and any kind of change that they think is necessary,” she said.

Welch said he also wants to look at the Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control and Gaming Enforcement funding and whether anything can be done to lower the number of active bench warrants in the system.

Delgado said he wants to examine policies on the hiring of outside counsel for the city-parish and review whether the city prosecutor’s office should be operated independently of the Parish Attorney’s Office.

The item is set for introduction Wednesday. Introduced items are normally referred to a committee for discussion before coming back to the full council for final approval.