Voting on a series of proposals to amend St. Bernard Parish’s home rule charter to give the Parish Council authority to hire staff, make board appointments and OK major contracts is on hold after a computer virus that hit parish computers last week prevented notice of the items from being published in the parish’s official journal, as required by law.
In all, 17 items on tap for the council’s meeting Tuesday will be put on hold until next month, Roxanne Adams, the council’s clerk, said Monday.
The virus apparently led some parish computers to begin sending out junk email, which caused all parish government emails to be blocked by recipients. Ultimately, that kept the agenda items from being advertised in the parish’s official journal, the St. Bernard Voice newspaper.
The measures, introduced by Council Chairman Guy McInnis, are now slated to be voted on July 1. If approved by the council, they could be scheduled for a public vote in November.
Under one proposed change, the Parish Council would be required to approve all contracts worth $25,000 or more. At present, the president approves all contracts.
Under another, the council would be able to hire its own staff, “including clerical assistants to the clerk of the council.” The charter currently allows the council to hire only a clerk.
The third amendment would give the council more control over appointments to boards and commissions. It would put council members in charge of submitting names for the parish president to choose from, rather than accepting the president’s single selection.
Parish President David Peralta said he opposes the changes, which he said would push the parish back toward a police jury form of government, where the council ultimately controls both the legislative and executive branches.
McInnis said the proposals should be put to a vote so residents can decide. He said he wants the council to be able to hire additional employees to “provide more oversight of the executive branch,” and he suggested that having someone oversee parish contracts and projects would be beneficial.
McInnis said it’s not that the council needs a lot of extra help, but that the citizens “need more eyes on the ball, if you will.”
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.