Local excluded in race for inspector general

Jefferson Parish will not be making controversial changes to the qualifications needed for its new inspector general, and that means the only local candidate for the position is out of the running for the job.

The parish’s Ethics and Compliance Commission decided Wednesday to withdraw its request that the Jefferson Parish Council waive the requirement that the new inspector general be certified by the Association of Inspector Generals. The commission’s request for that change had already been panned by several council members and residents who objected to a midstream change in the qualifications for the job.

Three of the four finalists for the job hold the certification, but Howard Schwartz, the assistant inspector general in New Orleans, did not have the certification. Accusations had been flying that the commission was changing its rules in a move to hire Schwartz, but the commission’s attorney, Steve Scheckman, said Wednesday that wasn’t the case.

Scheckman said he sought the change because the original ordinance was deeply flawed, not just with the certification but with several other problems. Scheckman said the group will now have to address those flaws once the inspector general is hired. He said given the recent issues that have come up regarding the proposed change, he thought it would be best to back away.

“There are provisions in there that are not workable and just don’t work,” Scheckman told the board. “Given recent events, I would request that the commission withdraw the request to amend the ordinance.”

Commission member Maria Cisneros said the board will examine Scheckman’s concerns at a later date.

“It certainly is an issue that needs to be fixed.”

Margaret Baird, a member of Citizens for Good Government, said it would be a bad idea for the commission to try to change the guidelines voters considered when voting to create the inspector general’s office. The inspector general needs to avoid the appearance of any conflicts of interest or backroom politics, she said.

“We really don’t like the rules changed. People voted when we had those rules,” Baird said.

Margie Seemann, another member of Citizens for Good Government, said the idea that requiring the certification limited candidates didn’t make sense, since three of the four finalists had the required qualifications. Seemann also said it would be a good idea to avoid local candidates for the job because of the possibility of conflicts of interest.

“It seems that we didn’t have a problem getting a number of people who are qualified,” she said. “We feel like we would like to have somebody for inspector general who’s not from Louisiana.”

The three remaining candidates for the position are Nicholas Shuler, of Chicago; David McClintock, of Maryland; and David Holmgren, of Virginia. The commission also decided to notify the remaining finalists that they will need to provide three to five reference letters and documentation proving their attendance at every educational facility cited in their ré sumé s.

The board will interview the candidates Jan. 23 and conduct background checks on each candidate.