Our Views: Unholy patronage

The blatant political patronage of some members of the Metro Council is coming back to haunt the members.

After a series of disputes involving management of five community centers, the latest council member to oversee one of the centers raised her sights. Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel is not only in charge of who runs the center, but she represents “earthly authority” in it.

For the management of what is, after all, a purely secular enterprise — in fact, as a government operation, it legally must be — Banks-Daniel held forth in emails about the Godliness of her goals and the submission of her employee.

Said employee worked for two weeks, but Banks-Daniel said she was never formally hired. But that short experience produced a public-records request which revealed the embarrassing communications from the councilwoman. Banks-Daniel said she should have said things differently, but that she was still right in ditching the worker.

Unfortunately, emails like those from Banks-Daniel are like manna from heaven for trial lawyers. We hope that the city-parish gets off without paying too heavily out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

The dispute at the Jewel J. Newman Community Center is only one of a string of them, as council members basically seized operations of the centers in 2011.

The parish has five community centers, which serve low-income areas. For years, the centers were overseen by the mayor’s office, but in 2011 the Metro Council shifted that responsibility to the members who had the centers in their districts.

If council members had the good sense that — yes, God — gave geese, they would have avoided the temptation to oust longtime directors and get in disputes with groups who use the centers.

How hard it is to run centers that offer services and meeting spaces for the neighborhoods? For members of the Metro Council, earthly authority went to their heads in all too many cases.

While it may seem an affront to the broad earthly authority enjoyed by members of the Metro Council, we suggest that it’s not the members’ jobs to be micromanagers of city-parish facilities.

The role of the Metro Council should be as a board of directors, not as a small community center’s political archangel.

It is past time for the council to end this experiment in patronage politics and return the centers to the mayor’s office, or transfer them to the parks authority — indeed, anyone with the qualifications to manage a facility.