The St. Tammany Parish Council and 22nd Judicial District Attorney Warren Montgomery have been at odds for months over a proposed home rule charter amendment that would remove the District Attorney’s Office as the legal representative of parish government.
With that amendment and eight others about to go before voters Saturday, Montgomery is renewing his objections to the proposed change. He issued a news release saying that defeat of the amendment will mean lower cost for taxpayers, more independence and greater accountability.
Montgomery has said he doesn’t oppose letting the parish administration have its own legal department, but the charter amendment also would remove the District Attorney’s Office as the legal adviser to the Parish Council and other boards and agencies created by parish ordinance.
“The creation of a new legal department for the parish likely would require additional staff and unnecessary expenses,’’ Montgomery said, calling his office the “largest legal firm’’ in the parish. It can provide basic legal services to parish entities at a lower cost, he said.
He also repeated his concern that the Parish Council has 14 members, each with different ideas. “My administration has pushed to keep politics out of the legal system,’’ he said. “The District Attorney’s Office can offer independent advice based on what is more sound legally, not politically.’’
The same charter amendment has drawn support from other quarters, however. The nonpartisan Bureau of Governmental Research took positions on three of the nine proposed amendments, including this one, which it favors.
BGR said the amendment would eliminate potential conflicts that could arise from the current requirement that the parish president and council use the district attorney as their legal adviser. Among other points, BGR notes that the district attorney is an elected official with his own constituency and that the office represents two parishes.
But Montgomery is touting his office as more accountable to voters. “The district attorney works for the people,’’ his release said, with the phrase “for the people’’ underlined.
“The district attorney is hired and fired by the people,” it said. “The District Attorney’s Office offers impartial legal advice in the best interests of the people of St. Tammany Parish.’’
Mandeville councilman declares his plans
With the campaigns for Saturday’s election winding down, political eyes in Mandeville are turning to the city’s March election, in which all five City Council seats and the mayor’s job will be before the voters.
This week, at-large Councilman Clay Madden announced he will seek re-election, joining District 2 Councilwoman Carla Buchholz in the race for the two at-large seats.
Madden, a first-term incumbent, has acknowledged for months that he planned to run again but held off making an official announcement until the Oct. 24 statewide election had passed.
In a statement, Madden cited his work on the city’s citizen financial committee and his efforts to make city government more transparent. He has frequently clashed with Mayor Donald Villere in what has been, at times, a tempestuous city government.
With Madden’s announcement, all five Mandeville council members have announced their political intentions. Councilmen David Ellis and Ernest Burguières are seeking re-election to their district seats. The other current at-large member, Rick Danielson, is challenging Villere for the mayor’s job in what is likely to be a vigorous fight.
As yet, no outsiders have jumped into the at-large council race.
Qualifying is Dec. 2-4.
Landrieu named as an Official of the Year
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been recognized by Governing magazine as a 2015 Public Official of the Year, Landrieu’s office has announced.
Landrieu was among nine state and local government officials honored for what the magazine said was looking at challenges in their communities and taking decisive action.
Every year since 1994, Governing has honored individual state and local government officials for outstanding accomplishments by naming them Public Officials of the Year. Landrieu is the only mayor among the 2015 honorees.
Governing said that since taking office in 2010, Landrieu has guided New Orleans back from a $100 million budget deficit and attracted millions more in federal and philanthropic aid. It said this has helped foster a stronger economy that is attracting new businesses and residents to the city.
Compiled by Sara Pagones, Faimon A. Roberts III and Bruce Eggler.