GONZALES — The newly elected Ascension Parish Council wants to pull back the reins a bit on the public fisc.
For six-and-a-half years, former Parish President Tommy Martinez could issue, without council approval, professional services contracts worth less than $50,000.
Just a week after new Parish President Kenny Matassa took office, the council indicated it plans to lower that threshold to $25,000.
Some council members said in a Finance Committee meeting Monday there are concerns about the number of parish contracts valued right at $49,999.
“I too agree, really that’s improper,” said Councilman Bill Dawson, who was elected to a first term Oct. 24. “I mean, if you work for a large corporation and you have a threshold at $50,000 and you starting seeing contracts at $49,999, that would raise a huge red flag.”
Nonetheless, Dawson and others weren’t ready Monday to lower the threshold because of worries about slowing parish operations. Contracts would have to go the Finance Committee and full council first.
Dawson seconded a motion by Councilman Dempsey Lambert to retain the current threshold, saying the issue could be revisited. Matassa even promised to provide more information about how the parish is handling the contracts.
But then Councilman Randy Clouatre, who was on the council that bumped up the threshold from $10,000 to $50,000 in mid-2009, moved to lower the threshold to $25,000.
Most of rest of the council followed suit, after promises to hold Finance Committee meetings if needed and to increase the threshold if projects are slowed. The change would not apply to drainage contracts.
The committee vote, 8-1, is a recommendation to the full council, but all 11 council members sit on the committee. Councilman Dempsey Lambert voted no and Travis Turner was absent. Teri Casso, the committee chair, does not vote unless it’s to break a tie.