Jefferson Parish’s inspector general asked the parish Tuesday to create special accounting codes for the oil spill-related settlement money the parish is getting from BP to make it easier to track how the money is spent and support the goal of transparency in government.
Inspector General David McClintock posted the letter on his office’s website and sent it to Parish President John Young and all seven Parish Council members, saying that while his office has no opinion regarding the use of the money, “we recommend the funds be handled within the parish’s financial system in a manner that fully supports and facilitates transparency.”
Young said McClintock has nothing to fear and the parish is coding the money the way it typically does other parish revenue, allowing it to be tracked coming and going.
“That’s something we had planned to do,” Young said. “I fully support … anything that promotes transparency and accountability.”
McClintock had asked that the funds be assigned two specific codes, one that would make it identifiable while in parish coffers and another that would make it possible to track the various ways it will be spent.
That, he said, would “ensure the funds can be effectively tracked by the Office of Inspector General and others.”
McClintock said he hadn’t heard much about how the parish planned to deal with the money and decided to issue a public letter “to further demonstrate that we are, collectively, along with the parish leadership, trying to be as transparent as possible.”
The council accepted a $53.7 million settlement in June. After taking out $11.7 million in attorneys’ fees and money set aside for 19 fire, drainage, water and other districts, the parish will have $34.7 million it is expected to divide among the five council districts and the administration.
Young reiterated his position from the last council meeting that a significant portion of the money should be dedicated to coastal restoration.
He said that while the money is not legally required to be used on coastal projects, ignoring them with this infusion of funding could make it difficult to get state and federal dollars for such projects in the future.
“They’re going to be watching us,” he said, noting that areas outside of the parish’s flood protection system have flooded four times since Katrina.
Young said any money that isn’t spent on restoration should go toward one-time uses, such as capital projects, and be done on a priority basis.
He repeated his position that the settlement money should not be used for raises for parish employees, an idea proposed last month by Councilman Ben Zahn.
“While I’m in favor of raises for our employees, I’m not in favor of using one-time sources, such as this settlement,” Young said.
The subject of the settlement money is expected to come up at the Parish Council’s meeting Wednesday, which will begin at 10 a.m. on the second floor of the General Government Building in Gretna.
This story was changed on Thursday, August 27, 2015, to correct the name of the council member who proposed using settlement money for employee pay raises.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.