Tammany IG task force still taking shape

The deadline to appoint members of a task force charged with investigating the creation of a St. Tammany inspector general’s office is Aug. 1, but two weeks out, its membership is far from finalized.

The state Senate resolution that set up the 24-member task force gave appointing authority to 20 different governing bodies and business and civic organizations. But not all of them have contacted Parish President Pat Brister’s office to name their representative.

At last week’s St. Tammany Parish Council meeting, Brister, who is responsible under the ordinance for calling the initial meeting of the group, had only received four responses, and that included her own appointee, Trilby Lenfant.

The Parish Council named attorney Neil Hall as its representative that night. The other two were both appointed by the St. Tammany legislative delegation: Evans Spiceland and Jack Francioni.

Lenfant, who works for Brister, sent out an email late last week, and that has prompted some additional responses. But while the parish list is not complete, calls made by The Advocate to the various appointing authorities indicate that most have made their choices.

St. Tammany Parish Clerk of Court Malise Prieto said she responded as soon as she received the email and will serve on the panel herself. “I think it’s important,” Prieto said Wednesday.

St. Tammany Parish Jack Strain appointed James “Gus” Davis of the NAACP in an email dated Friday. The St. Tammany Parish Assessor’s Office named its chief deputy to the panel, Troy Dugas. St. Tammany Parish School Superintendent Trey Folse will represent that body on the panel, according to Brister administration spokesman Ronnie Simpson.

The St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office will be represented by lawyer Charles Branton.

The St. Tammany Parish District Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment on whether it had made an appointment, and Brister’s office did not have information about that agency’s appointee.

Each of the municipal governments in St. Tammany has a slot on the panel, and most have made a choice. The Covington City Council appointed Councilman Mark Wright to the panel at its meeting this week. Pearl River named its town attorney, Ron Guth, at its July meeting. Abita Springs Mayor Greg Lemons said Thursday that the town’s Board of Aldermen designated him as the representative. Folsom will be represented by Board of Aldermen member Donald Burris, Mayor Phillip Bickham said.

Madisonville officials could not be reached for comment, and the parish did not have information on its member.

But Slidell and Mandeville won’t make their appointments until next week. The Slidell City Council will vote Tuesday on the appointment of city attorney Bryan Haggerty, Council Clerk Tommy Reeves said. Mandeville will take up the matter at its meeting Thursday.

Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, which has been pushing for the creation of an inspector general, has two appointees to the board. It has forwarded the names of Carl Ernst and Jim Blazek, who serves as the group’s legal advisor.

The parish did not have the name of the St. Tammany Parish League of Women Voters’ appointee, and the group could not be reached for comment.

No information was available from several business groups that have appointees, including the St. Tammany Chamber East and the Northshore Business Commission. The St. Tammany Chamber West was holding a meeting of its governmental affairs committee on Wednesday and was likely take up the matter then, Chief Executive Officer Lacey Toledano said. The appointment is also on the agenda for the Northshore Business Alliance, which is meeting today, according to legislative advocate Dino Paternostro.

The Senate resolution that creates the task force, authored by state Sen. A.G. Crowe, does not specify when the task force must meet initially, but Brister has the responsibility of calling the first meeting, and the task force is charged with electing a chairman.

If any of the appointing bodies fails to make a choice by the deadline, the resolution specifies that the task force shall elect a chairman by majority vote of those who have been appointed by the deadline.

The task force must report its findings to the Legislature by March 1.