St. Bernard Parish Council wants more control - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

St. Bernard Parish Council wants more control

St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta and the parish council are at odds over how much authority the council should have. The council will soon vote on amending the home rule charter, but Peralta says the measure could set the parish back years.

Council Chairman Guy McInnis says there's lots of confusion over how money is spent in the parish.

"Right now, we have contracts that we have grants for but there's St. Bernard matching funds for these programs and none of that is being budgeted when we're assigning contracts," said McInnis.

An example McInnis points to is Val Reiss Park. FEMA gave $10 million for the park to be built with an agreement that the parish would put up $4 million. It wasn't until after FEMA's money was used and the project was completed that McInnis says the council learned of the deal.

"We owe FEMA $4 million. And we don't have that money," he explained.

The money, McInnis says, wasn't properly budgeted for. It's something the council would like to see fixed, so they'll consider amending the home rule charter to allow them to approve all contracts worth $25,000 or more.

Another proposed amendment would allow the council to submit names to the parish president for board appointments as opposed to just accepting the person the president selects.

"I just don't think it's something that's necessary. We have something that's working, it's not broken so let's continue on where we are," said Parish President David Peralta.

Not only is Peralta opposed to the proposed changes, he likens them to a form of police jury type government.

"What you're doing is you're allowing the legislative branch of this government to also be the executive branch. Well, you shouldn't have it both ways," said the parish president.

Peralta says in other parts of the country where the council has such power, it greatly slows the pace of government.

"They want more control. There's a select group of councilmen in my opinion that want more control. If you want more control of the executive branch, then run for the office," said Peralta.

But Guy McInnis says the proposed changes are simply a way to add additional oversight. He points out that the problems the council is experiencing with contracts isn't a direct result of anything Peralta did - those were decisions made by previous administrations that the council is now trying to fix moving forward.

The council will consider the proposed amendments to the home rule charter next month. If approved, they'll have to be put on a ballot for voters to decide on.

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