St. Landry

Apr 9, 2012 10:53 PM by Shawn Kline

Who's in charge here? Another parish looking for answers

St. Landry Parish Government needs another opinion. There are some questions over who has more authority to appoint department heads; the Parish Council or Parish President Bill Fontenot?

The two parties are looking to the Attorney General's Office to determine who's wrong, if anyone.

"The President shall appoint and directly supervise the heads of all departments, subject to the council's approval." Councilman Timmy LeJeune emphasized, "subject to the council's approval."

The problem also raises questions about the parish charter, somewhat the constitution for parish government.

"The council clearly does not approve Mr. Bellard as our Finance Director," LeJeune said.

Mr. Bellard is Jessie Bellard, the Parish Chief Administrative Officer. When a position for Finance Director became open, Parish President Bill Fontenot appointed him, in addition to his job as CAO, Bellard would also tackle finances.

"To hire someone else would be a redundant effort and a more expensive effort," Fontenot explained.

On the other hand, LeJeune says the rules are clear. Stated in the charter:

Section 4-01. General Provisions.
A. The president shall appoint... The heads of all departments... And the appointments shall be subject to council approval.

Council didn't approve Fontenot's appointment of Bellard, citing the need for someone more qualified. So the question now is, what's next?

"It's only a technicality," Fontenot said.

According to the charter, he's the only one with the authority to appoint department heads. If that's the case, LeJeune just has more unanswered questions.

"If the Attorney General comes back with the ruling that we have to approve (this), then I don't understand the wording of the charter," LeJeune said.

If these questions sound familiar to you, it's because they are. St. Landry Parish isn't the only parish raising questions over authority in its charter.

Iberia Parish Government is in a similar situation. Parish President "Romo" Romero hired and even fired some employees earlier this year, without council's approval.

Iberia Parish Council is also reaching out to the Attorney General's Office and the State Ethics Board to hear an opinion about those actions.

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