Metro Buzz: Livingston councilwoman defends legal adviser during critique _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Livingston Parish council member Joan Landry speaks during a Livingston Parish Council meeting, Thursday, September 25.

Members of the Livingston Parish Council lambasted their legal adviser at length earlier this week over his handling of several lawsuits, until one council member took exception and countered that her colleagues should heed the warning of parish voters.

During the comments portion at the end of the meeting, Councilwoman Joan Landry commended voters for studying the Home Rule Charter amendments on the ballot — three out of five passed on Dec. 6 — and said the parish “voted the way that should’ve been done.”

One of the two amendments voters rejected dealt specifically with who can give the council legal advice. It would have allowed the Parish Council to set up its own legal department and hire a legal adviser, independent of the one appointed by the district attorney.

Landry told the council members Monday they should take that vote as a sign that “the public trusts the DA and our counsel and what he does for us more than he trusts this council to hire special legal counsel.”

She chastised the council members who suggested hiring another special attorney to handle a federal whistleblower lawsuit currently being handled by parish legal adviser Christopher Moody, and she specifically called out Councilwoman Cindy Wale-Franz for putting Moody’s legal bills on the agenda for discussion. Those legal bills have been the subject of much council debate, with several council members complaining that they aren’t involved in negotiating the rates or able to set caps.

“Instead of putting something on the agenda to slander Mr. Moody and make him look bad, I would suggest that Ms. Cindy Wale sit down with the DA, Mr. Moody and our parish president and try to work out the bills and whatever disagreement you think you have,” Landry said.

As Landry finished, Wale-Franz and fellow councilmen Marshall Harris and Jim Norred rose to leave in an apparent objection to her comments. But Councilman Chance Parent drew them back, joking, “I have a comment, too. Y’all gonna listen to my comment?”

School Board to ask for tax renewal

As Livingston Parish voters shoot down tax after tax, the School Board is preparing to go to the polls next year with a millage renewal of its own.

In November and December, residents voted to defund the parish health unit, the Live Oak Sports Complex and the Holden-area volunteer fire department.

During a meeting this month, the parish School Board publicly announced a plan to put a tax renewal of its own on the ballot sometime in 2015. The proposal calls for a 10-year, 7-mill ad valorem tax to fund building maintenance.

The failure of other tax renewals hasn’t escaped Superintendant John Watson’s notice.

“That does concern us a good bit,” he said.

But he pointed out that the renewal the board is seeking has been on the books since the 1950s, winning reapproval by voters every 10 years.

The parishwide millage would raise approximately $3 million per year. It pays for maintenance like repairing air conditioners, replacing broken windows and making minor building upgrades. It isn’t used for large-scale construction, the superintendant said.

The millage pays for about half of all building maintenance every year, Watson said. If the millage renewal fails, he said the board would have to find the money elsewhere or delay projects. A school in need of a new roof may have to settle for a patch job if funding can’t be found.

The School Board is scheduled to officially call for the election during its Feb. 5 meeting. Watson hopes to put the proposal to voters in May.

Staff writers Heidi Kinchen and Steve Hardy contributed to this report.