Jefferson inspector general unhappy over delay, and other area political news _lowres

Plaquemines Parish Assessor

Jeff inspector general unhappy over delay

As Jefferson Parish Inspector General David McClintock tells it, he spent 25 days seeking feedback from Parish Council members about a package of legislation pertaining to his office’s operation that he would like the council to pass.

No one mentioned a word to him about the changes he has proposed, he said, until the measures came up for discussion at a council meeting last week and were immediately deferred until April 29.

“(There was not) a note of caution, a word change suggestion, nothing,” McClintock said later during an Ethics and Compliance Commission meeting, where he explained that council members told him afterward that the Parish Attorney’s Office had reservations about some of the language in the proposed legislation. “I’m hopeful — I’m optimistic, as always — that we’ll get through it. (But) I’m a little disappointed that there wasn’t communication beforehand.”

Deferring agenda items isn’t rare for the Parish Council, which does that numerous times at every meeting. But at least some observers took last week’s episode as an indication that the council still might not see eye-to-eye with McClintock, who was hired in March 2013 and has clashed several times with other parish officials.

Some Parish Council members have criticized him for taking longer than he predicted to begin issuing reports on investigations and audits into government operations.

In an annual report his office released April 1, McClintock cited increased activity in 2014. Since November, the office has published four investigative reports or audits.

Councilmen Mark Spears and Ben Zahn, who moved to defer Wednesday, denied that the postponement had anything to do with McClintock personally. They said the action was meant to give the council time to fully understand the proposed legislation and to ensure that the measures meet all constitutional requirements.

Congemi to face either Roberts or Lee-Sheng

At least for now, former Kenner Mayor and Jefferson Parish Councilman Louis Congemi wants his political comeback to happen at the expense of either Chris Roberts or Cynthia Lee-Sheng.

Congemi said last week that he intends to run for one of the two at-large posts on the Jefferson Parish Council in the Oct. 24 primary, not for a Metairie-based district seat he considered seeking because it won’t have an incumbent defending it.

His decision means Congemi will be in a race against either Roberts — who’s finishing up his third term overall on the council and his first as an at-large member — or Lee-Sheng, who is term-limited from running for re-election in the Metairie-based District 5 and plans to run for the at-large seat now held by Elton Lagasse. Lagasse is running for the Jefferson Parish presidency against Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni.

Congemi is not a challenger to be taken lightly. He opened the year with a hefty $265,299 in his campaign finance account. He has name recognition after serving as Kenner’s mayor from 1996 to 2003 and then on the Jefferson council from 2004 to 2012, when term limits prevented him from running for re-election to his 4th District seat, which included much of Kenner and part of western Metairie.

But Congemi could hardly ask for tougher opponents. Finishing up her second term as the District 5 representative, Lee-Sheng can expect significant support in Metairie, and her campaign chairman — Newell Normand, Jefferson Parish’s influential sheriff — is a skilled fundraiser. Normand, of course, was the political protege of Lee-Sheng’s late father, longtime Sheriff Harry Lee.

Meanwhile, Roberts has a staunch support base on the West Bank, especially around Gretna, the parish seat.

Plaquemines assessor to retire after 36 years

Plaquemines Parish Assessor Bobby Gravolet, one of the longest-serving politicians in the New Orleans metro area and possibly the longest-serving assessor in Louisiana, announced Friday that he will retire when his ninth term expires next year.

By then, Gravolet will have served 36 years in office and worked with at least nine parish presidents, according to a news release he sent out Friday. His term ends Dec. 31, 2016.

Orleans Parish Assessor Erroll Williams said he believes Gravolet is the longest-tenured of the state’s 64 elected assessors since the retirement two years ago of St. Charles Parish Assessor Clyde “Rock” Gisclair, who held office for 40 years.

As the assessor for the parish that has consistently had the most drilling activity in the state, Gravolet served for most of his tenure as chairman of the Louisiana Assessors Association’s Oil and Gas Committee.

In that role, he said, he sought to ensure that the energy industry paid its fair share, along with everyone else. “Deferential treatment to any class of property unfairly shifts the tax burden to all other taxpayers,” he said in a statement. “The system works best when everyone pays their fair share.”

In large part because of its plethora of pipelines, rigs and other energy-related equipment, Plaquemines Parish has the fourth-lowest property tax rate in the state. Its parishwide rate is 65.53 mills, according to the Tax Commission.

Getting the oil and gas industry to pay its share was an uphill battle at times, Williams said.

“In many cases, the provisions were in favor of the oil and gas guys, not the way it should be,” Williams said, and Gravolet fought with the Louisiana Tax Commission, which oversees assessors, to change some rulings he considered too favorable to the energy business.

“Bobby was always the lead person on oil and gas,” Williams said. “We’ll miss him.”

Compiled by Ramon Antonio Vargas and Gordon Russell