Associates of Jefferson councilman accused of improper demands _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Mark Spears, Jefferson Parish Council

The head of an organization seeking to build a facility for single mothers in Waggaman has publicly accused associates of Parish Councilman Mark Spears of threatening to block the project unless specific contractors were hired for the job.

Glenda Williams, founding director of the Jefferson Parish chapter of the National Congress of Black Women, leveled the allegation during Wednesday’s Parish Council meeting.

“We will not be intimidated, not allow this organization to be intimidated about who we want to hire and who we want to give contracts to,” Williams said.

Spears denied the allegations during the meeting and said he has held only one discussion with Williams about the proposed center. He also said Williams was free to contact authorities about her concerns because he had nothing to hide.

Williams said her organization has been trying to build a center for single mothers between the ages of 16 and 21 at 11008 River Road that would include housing, educational facilities and other features such as a cafeteria. It would be built with grant money.

“For some reason, our organization continues to get resistance with this project,” Williams said. “We don’t understand why because we’re not asking the parish for anything but their cooperation in helping young women to have jobs, to have education and to have a support system to take care of their children.”

Williams told the council she met with Spears and others about the project in 2013 but has had difficulty getting a response from the councilman to her requests to discuss the project since then.

Williams and Spears verbally sparred several times over the allegations during the meeting, and Williams agreed that Spears and members of his staff had not made any direct demands of her organization. She alleged that people who were members of Spears’ “regime” had approached her to say the project had to employ specific people or companies.

Williams did not say who had approached her or whom she was allegedly told to hire.

Spears said he had no knowledge of Williams’ allegations.

“Honestly, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

Spears said that the last he had heard, the organization was still looking for a site and that because the application had not been submitted, it was not yet in his purview. He vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

“Any allegations you have, tell the inspector general, U.S. Attorney’s Office or FBI because I have nothing to do with it,” Spears said.

The organization has not yet filed the paperwork necessary to begin the process of getting such a center permitted or zoned, according to the parish’s Planning Department. It has been provided with checklists of information necessary for getting the process started, Inspection and Code Enforcement Director Tiffany Wilken said.