The Jefferson Parish School Board voted Tuesday night to set aside $75,000 to hire a public relations firm to help educate voters ahead of the Nov. 18 election, when the board is asking voters to consider a new 8.45-mill tax dedicated to teacher and employee salary increases.

The vote followed a lengthy discussion that began when board member Cedric Floyd proposed hiring Byron Leblanc and paying him $69,000 for the job.

Leblanc has worked for the school system before, and while several members said they found him to be competent, they thought the board should see if other firms would be interested.

"I feel like I am being railroaded again," said board President Melinda Doucet. "Why was there no RFP (request for proposals)? This is a lot of money."

Floyd countered that the board had unanimously voted to hire Leblanc in the past, and with the election quickly approaching, the board needed to act fast to send a message of support to the teachers.

Going out for proposals "is a delay tactic," Floyd said. 

Board member Marion Bonura, a retired coach, didn't buy that argument.

"Don't listen to all that garbage," he told the teachers in the audience. "I'm for you, you know that."

Others agreed that proposals should be solicited.

"While I think the world of Mr. Leblanc, I do not think this is the way we should do business," Larry Dale said.

The board decided to amend the measure to a request for qualifications with a cap of $75,000, but not before Floyd caught some criticism from fellow board member Mark Morgan.

"This is a problem when a single board member, not just Mr. Floyd, goes out and does something all on their own," he said. "This isn't a one-man show. It doesn't work that way." 

The deadline for firms to submit their qualifications is 4 p.m. Sept. 19.

Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.