Turner takes reigns on Port Sulphur programsNov 9th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: news
In frustration over the delays facing several FEMA related projects for District 6, Councilman Burghart Turner requested that the Council imbue him with the right to advocate personally for the stalled programs.
The projects Turner is seeking to see through to completion are the Port Sulphur Library, a planned tennis court and the Diamond Pavilion.
“Again, in order for us to move forward on these projects—[as] there have been some delays—and in talking to GOHSEP, because the Parish President is named on the applications, it sort of limits them,” Turner said. “And I was told by them that if the Council would pass legislation authorizing me to represent and serve as the applicant on these projects then they could move it forward.”
There was some opposition on the matter. Parish President Billy Nungesser had attended but had already left at this part of the meeting.
The objection was put forth by Benny Puckett, the Grant Administrator for the Parish. Puckett’s assertion was that if the Council was to place Turner as the applicant for these programs it would be in violation of the Charter. Puckett also stated that the move could effect the validity of contracts and projects undertaken by the parish government.
“The applicant is the Plaquemines Parish Government,” Puckett said. “It’s not the Council, nor is it an individual in the Council.”
Puckett said that the Council’s role in the eyes of the Charter was to authorize and direct action by the Chief Executive Officer of the Parish to apply for grants—in this case the Parish President—and to not undertake direct actions themselves on behalf of the government.
“In order to have an applicant that is outside of the scope of local government it would in essence negate the contracts and cooperative endeavor agreements that are currently enforced and in place… I think we open ourselves up to some at risk things here,” Puckett said.
Puckett went on to say that the actions Turner was proposing would require executive actions, considered a separate power for someone in the legislative body, as dictated under the rules of the Charter.
Section 3.01 of the Charter states:
“The Parish President shall be the Chief Executive Office of the Parish and shall have power, subject to this Charter and the Constitution of the State, to supervise and direct all activities and functions of Parish Government and provide administrative and logistical support to all other political subdivisions and districts therein as provided in this Charter and may delegate such authority to the offices and agencies of the Parish as hereinafter provided.”
So, while the section of the Charter does delegate executive decisions to the Parish President, there is no direct language prohibiting Turner from acting as an advocate for the projects he is looking to see finished in District 6. In fact, several people, including former Parish President Benny Rousselle, said that the administration itself was in violation of that same Charter, by not following the mandate of the Council in these matters.
Councilman Byron Marinovich, District 8, favored Turner’s proposed actions, and the effort by Turner to advocate for projects in his own district.
“There’s been no movement on these projects for whatever reason—I’m not going to point fingers—but if Mr. Turner feels like he can do a little better job getting these projects in his district moving forward a little faster, moving forward at all, and I’ll ask everyone to help him out with this,” Marinovich said.
“I mean, what risk are we at?” Marinovich continued. “If [Turner] does nothing, and he gets nothing done, what have we lost?”
Councilman P.V. Griffin, District 1, also was left to question what was causing the staggering delays that brought Tuner to the point that he felt the only way he could see the projects completed was if he took the reigns as the applicant?
Puckett’s answer alluded to some land-use issues, but details were not available directly, as the FEMA projects are being overseen by a separate company, who would have the necessary information. In this matter, that company is AllSouth Engineering Services, who were not directly represented at the meeting.
“Mr. Puckett, there are no contracts that we can lose,” Turner said. “The only other option would be to file suit, to move these things forward, because I definitely feel there is discrimination going on here. And rather than go that route, the state has acknowledged that this legislation would suffice for us to move these projects forward.”
And the Council did in fact support the legislation by a vote of 7-0, with Councilman Anthony Buras and Councilwoman Marla Cooper not present for the vote.