The official government watchdog for Jefferson Parish on Wednesday reiterated his concern that a consultant working for the Parish Council is being paid too handsomely, drawing a sharp rebuttal from the consultant. 

In a 123-page report, Inspector General David McClintock's office said the parish has paid Joshua Nemzoff about $350,000 since April for work he has done to help finalize a 2015 deal to lease parish-owned West Jefferson Medical Center to a private operator. And that's despite the fact that Nemzoff has failed to meet some of the requirements outlined in his contract with the parish, the report said.  

The Pennsylvania-based Nemzoff accused McClintock of conducting "a personal vendetta" against him and disputed the accuracy of the findings in a scathing email sent to the IG and widely circulated among other officials. 

Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng, who has generally been supportive of Nemzoff, said he has helped the parish get a better deal out of leasing the struggling hospital than it otherwise might have. She also said he has generated about $17 million in savings during efforts to finalize the half-billion-dollar lease deal. 

Nonetheless, McClintock's report maintained that the good results of Nemzoff's work don't justify what it contends are questionable payments. 

An earlier IG's inquiry found the parish paid Nemzoff $1 million for help in striking the 2015 lease deal without thoroughly documenting which tasks he had performed. 

Wednesday's report said Nemzoff was required to produce a document for parish officials outlining how best to manage the lease deal and meet their obligation to maintain health care on the West Bank without actually operating a hospital there anymore. Instead, the report said, he produced a series of emails and "a list of websites for ideas."

The report also said that Nemzoff dragged his feet in providing the IG's Office with information to which the agency is entitled, waiting until other parish officials reiterated the requests or referring questions to an attorney in New Jersey. 

Finally, the IG accused Nemzoff of acting inappropriately in recruiting a group to perform an assessment of health needs among West Bank residents, a step called for in the hospital lease deal.

Nemzoff apparently suggested that the parish partner with Tulane University's School of Public Health. But it turned out the professors involved would have been doing the work through a private, for-profit company they had formed, and so would have to go through a full public bidding process to get the work.

Ultimately, that group did score the highest among four bidders, though it has not received a contract to do the assessment. McClintock's report said Nemzoff tainted the process by getting involved. 

In his reply, Nemzoff took issue with that finding, citing "an email chain a mile long" showing that numerous parish officials were perfectly fine with his decision to contact the public health school's dean. 

Nemzoff said he met the group of professors for the first time at a meeting with parish officials, whereas McClintock's report left an impression that he had been "conspiring with these professors" beforehand "to defraud the Parish Council," he said.  

Lee-Sheng acknowledged that the Parish Council had allowed Nemzoff to deviate from some contract benchmarks, but she said that was made necessary by circumstances outside of the council's control.

Previously, officials have credited Nemzoff for identifying accounting errors predating the lease deal that some feared would cost Jefferson in the neighborhood of $20 million. Nemzoff has helped correct many of those mistakes since the lease agreement was reached, reducing that cost to about $3 million, said Lee-Sheng, who was the Parish Council chairwoman last year.  

She added that the council would formalize the changes in Nemzoff's assignment through a contract amendment as soon as possible.

Also on Wednesday, McClintock's office released a separate report saying it had identified potential underpayment of overtime to employees at the Harvey Volunteer Fire Company and had referred the matter to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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