Inside Metro Politics for May 18, 2013

Elected officials call for Galvan’s ouster

An activist group that launched a recall petition drive for embattled St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan on Wednesday gathered some high-profile signatories Thursday.

St. Tammany Parish Council members Reid Falconer, Jake Groby, Richard Tanner and Maureen O’Brien and Abita Springs Mayor Greg Lemon were among the first to sign the recall petition.

Galvan has drawn fire for spending practices at his public office, including lavish salaries, credit card purchases and paying himself for accrued vacation time.

Rick Franzo of Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, the group behind the drive, said some additional elected officials, including state lawmakers, have said they want to sign but were not able to make it to a signing event Thursday afternoon at the Passionate Platter in Slidell’s Olde Towne.

The group will begin its efforts to get registered voters to sign the petition Saturday at the same location. They need to get 53,000 signatures in six months to force Galvan, who has three years left in his term, into a new election.

Default status still
in play in Jefferson

Jefferson Parish officials may be seeking a settlement with contractor Joe Caldarera to complete the parish’s troubled performing arts center, but the Parish Council isn’t ready to take the possibility of placing him in default off the table.

Earlier this month, the council discussed the status of the project and the possibility of authorizing Parish President John Young to place Caldarera’s company in default because of problems with the center’s construction. The center is far over budget and well behind schedule. After a lengthy presentation by Caldarera, who said he was insulted by the suggestion that the project’s delays are his fault, the council decided to give the parish and Caldarera two more weeks to figure out a deal.

But on Wednesday, Parish Attorney Deborah Foshee said the roughly $9.75 million settlement still isn’t done. Foshee asked for more time to work out that deal, which she described as close. She added that if the council removed the default option from consideration, it would make a deal more likely.

But Council Chairman Chris Roberts balked at that suggestion, wondering if eliminating the default option would limit the parish’s leverage in negotiations. Roberts urged the parish to get the settlement done now.

“This has become like nailing Jell-O to the wall,” Roberts said.

Lambert fills same job as father for panel

Nolan Lambert, a longtime member of the city attorney’s office, has been named special counsel for the Sewerage & Water Board, filling the same role his father held for more than two decades.

Lambert, who has worked for the city since 1993, is a prosecutor for the Alcohol Beverage Control Board. In his role at the S&WB he will handle all legal business for the board of directors, as well as prepare legislation, bylaws, and rules and legislation.

Lambert replaces Gerard Victor who retired after holding the position for eight years.

“The board is fortunate to have an attorney on our team with so much experience and knowledge in many fields of law relative to the board,” S&WB Executive Director Marcia St. Martin said in a prepared statement.

Lambert should be familiar with the utility’s operations. His father, John Lambert, a former councilman, was the board’s executive counsel for 22 years.

Jefferson watchdogs bark at each other

Two of Jefferson Parish’s government watchdogs exchanged heated words this week over whether new Inspector General David McClintock has maintained his independence.

Ethics and Compliance Commission Chairwoman Carroll Suggs was not pleased with assertions by Betty Purcell, a member of Citizens for Good Government, that McClintock was becoming too chummy with parish officials because he held a series of meetings with them in recent weeks. Purcell made those claims during a break in the action at the May 15 Jefferson Parish Council meeting.

Purcell said Citizens for Good Government advocated for the inspector general to come from outside the state because they wanted someone who wasn’t a part of the local political machine. She repeated that assertion to McClintock during the commission’s monthly meeting later that day.

“We’ll be watching you,” Purcell told McClintock as he calmly nodded.

But Suggs lit into Purcell, letting her know that she sat with McClintock during all of those meetings, and there was nothing untoward about them. McClintock is meeting with politicians to let them know how his office works. Suggs also advised Purcell to tone down the extended diatribes Purcell and other Citizens for Good Government members make during Jefferson Parish Council meetings because they are of limited effectiveness. The encounter appeared to get both women riled up.

“I am so angry,” Suggs exclaimed later.

Compiled by Sara Pagones,

Allen Powell II

and Danny Monteverde