A lengthy standoff between a Jefferson Parish councilman and the parish Inspector General’s Office ended Wednesday when Councilman Mark Spears dropped his effort to require IG’s Office investigators to make written requests for parish government records.
Spears said he abandoned the effort due to “pushback” from Inspector General David McClintock, who said such a requirement would hamper his investigative efforts by potentially tipping off parish departments or employees that they are under scrutiny.
The demise of Spears’ proposal means McClintock and his investigators will be allowed to continue getting parish records without making written requests.
Even as Spears dropped the measure, he rattled off a long list of similar agencies that he said operate with that requirement.
McClintock said during Wednesday’s council meeting that he had not realized the issue of other offices’ procedures would be raised at the meeting and he was not prepared to directly discuss how they operate.
While some of the agencies on Spears’ list — including the New Orleans Inspector General’s Office, on which the relatively new Jefferson Parish office is based — do have language in their ordinances that refers to written requests, such requests often are treated as a last resort in dealing with uncooperative departments rather than as an initial approach, McClintock said. New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatravaux has said that’s the way his office operates.
McClintock, the committee that oversees his office, similar agencies in New Orleans and state government, and various watchdog groups all have opposed Spears’ ordinance since an earlier version of the measure was proposed in December. The matter has remained on the council agenda since then, though never brought up for a vote.
The issue had its roots in another conflict between McClintock’s office and parish government in which Parish Attorney Deborah Foshee cut off investigators’ direct access to the parish’s email servers, citing concerns that such an arrangement could violate attorney-client privilege. Parish President John Young later restored that access.
Spears said he had no immediate intention of bringing the measure back up but held out the possibility that he could propose something similar in the future.
“If an issue comes up, as a public official I’ll try to fix the problem,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Parish Council also formally came out in opposition to two measures being considered by the Legislature that would give the governor greater control over who sits on the authorities that oversee flood protection in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Bernard parishes.
Those measure have faced fierce opposition from area legislators and groups who say they would undermine the independence of the levee boards, reversing reforms put in place after the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina.