Covington Weekly » Blog Archives

Tag Archives: quasi public agency

Opinion

Greater Degree Of Transparency Needed In St. Tammany Economic Development

Published by:

essays on should cigarette smoking be banned distributed generation research paper social security reform free essay see url click facebook viagra study of history essay ambient temperature food safety viagra und sehstrungen cual es mejor la viagra o el cialis cialis over the counter uae https://samponline.org/blacklives/best-internet-sites-research-papers/27/ prednisone 10 mg tablets side effects braided essay samples viagra the day after viagra oral jelly info buy topamax no prescription needed secure site civil war prisons essay topics our national bird peacock essay problem solving worksheet get self help https://dnaconnexions.com/last/generic-viagra-on-craigslist/25/ free essay on healthy food accutane keto odd research paper topics all that glitters is not gold essay examples zovirax qual o pre o https://aaan.org/indications/diabete-e-cialis/27/ cigarette smoking is injurious to health essay questions http://windmillharbourmarina.org/wie-oft-darf-viagra-eingenommen-werden/ how parents can help with math homework go site sandoz cialis for women It’s There, You Just Have To Really Look For It… And Sometimes Rely On An FOIA Request

Helis Oil & Gas Company announced last week that they would not pursue the anticipated project near Lakeshore High School, President David Kerstein reiterating that Helis consistently operated above board and within the parameters allocated in keeping with the public trust.     A day after the announcement, a Lee Zurik investigation revealed that a judge ruling on the case regarding Helis Oil & Gas Company vs. St. Tammany Parish and CCST received campaign contributions in the amount of $3,000 from Helis.  While politicians receive money from any number of industries all the time, a judge receiving money from someone with a case before them more closely resembles graft or bribery than an innocent contribution, which is not consistent with keeping the public trust.

corpor1

In March of 2014, St. Tammany Economic Development Director Don Shea declared that the district had no knowledge of upcoming projects when pitching the new Development Districts to the Parish Council.   Shea stated, there’s “Nothing In The Pipeline.” Unbeknownst to the council (or not), there was “Something In The Pipeline”.  A Freedom Of Information Act Request was obtained by the local group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, and parish government e-mails made public revealed that, not only did the parish have prior knowledge of the Helis project, there was a concerted effort to marginalize public dissent.  The publicized e-mails also revealed disparaging remarks directed at the citizenry, possibly a contributing factor to Shea’s departure from Parish Administration.

Considering that the STEDF (St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation, the “management arm” of the Economic Development District) receives millions of tax dollar derived Go Zone Funds from the Louisiana State Bond Commission for economic development related projects, and the STEDF is listed as a 501C6 Non Profit Organization, it is very confusing how the STEDF performs the following duties without being classified as a public agency, or a “quasi-public agency”:
1) be the “managing arm” of a public body (EDD)
2) raise funds for a public body (EDD)
3) appoint three board members of a public body (EDD)
4) provide one board member of a public body (EDD)
It makes very little sense how this organization claims no accountability to the public, when it is a major component driving St. Tammany Parish economic development.

laws-are-magic
Laws Are Magic  Legislation previously discussed in CW relates to the powers held by the Economic Development District, written by Sen. Donahue (SB617) and the former Rep. Burns (HB252).  The Ethics Law Exemption written for the Economic Development District world is relative to the tax exemptions, governmental authorities and other corporate incentives granted to development districts and bond-holders.  Conflicts of interest do not exist in that world, or at least, they are identified as “exemptions”.
Parish President Pat Brister lamented on the money spent in the fracking lawsuit, stating that changing oil and gas extraction laws requires going to the State Legislature. This sentiment is appreciated, and it is one that CW echoed many times, first stated by Patrick Courreges of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

The St. Tammany Parish Government laid a foundation of Transparency and Accountability, but stories of bribery, conflicts of interest and public deception, all within one failed project that was presumed to happen, indicate that greater Transparency and Accountability can be achieved. Citizens should be able to understand how government works without a law degree or a Freedom of Information Act request, and the public has a right to know how its money is spent.   The reality is that all of the heartache, frustration and money wasted could have been avoided had there been a public referendum in the first place.  Considering the rich history of this parish, as well as its namesake, preservation of the beauty and mystique of this area should be paramount to corporate interest.

 

 

Opinion

The EDF: Either It Will, Or It Won’t

Published by:

Admit That It Is A Quasi Public Agency

by Timothy Achan Gates, CW Correspondent

New Legal Precedent A recent Baton Rouge Appellate Court ruling on the constitutionality of a Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office arrest related to an anti-corruption blog sets a new precedent with regard to the Louisiana State criminal defamation statute and public officials.  In this case, the subjects of discussion in the blog were identified as public officials, therefore the information disclosed was constitutionally protected.

What does that mean for St. Tammany?  Questions asked by CW regarding the STEDF two years ago remain unanswered while the organization (The St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation is a private, non profit organization with governmental authority granted by the Louisiana State Legislature) continues to write hundreds of millions of dollars yearly in Revenue Bonds comprised of Federal and State money, offered through state and local economic development agencies.
It is everybody’s problem that the State of Louisiana has a deficit of one and a half billion dollars, while it gives away freely one and a half billion dollars in corporate tax incentives.   The same principles employed by the state are used by the parish on a smaller scale, and they expect subservience while operating in such a fashion.   In the name of furthering economic development, the results of this fiscal path are evidenced by the current situation St. Tammany faces, among other parishes in the State:
Municipal infrastructure is weak, rampant development and industrialization is resulting in man-made disasters, taxes are raising to pay for parish projects that were never publicly voted on, and the public will again foot the bill for mitigation, repairs and clean-up that should have already been administered years ago, with taxes that are already collected.  While the general public and the small business community faces these challenges, the parish and their corporate partners continue an initiative of growing the tax base and encouraging destructive heavy industrial operations with no real regard for public opinion.
Public Money Equals Full Public Disclosure  The EDF justifies its non-disclosure of financial details by pointing out that it is a private organization and not accountable to the public.  Bonds written using Federal and State dollars illuminate the premise that full disclosure of EDF activities to the public is warranted, regardless of its status as a private organization.
Is the EDF, or is the EDF not a quasi-public agency? It is time to admit the legal standing.
email: covweekly@gmail.com

 

Opinion

Economic Development Series Re-Revisited

Published by:

by Timothy Achan Gates, Covington Weekly Correspondent

Two years ago, Covington Weekly launched an Economic Development Series with the purpose of understanding how a seemingly quasi-public agency (The St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation) can operate among regional organizations without public scrutiny. The Parish Legal Department has since inserted a disclaimer on EDF financial statements that the presentation of information is “not an admission of a quasi-public agency,” although the STEDF appears to fall within the Louisiana State Legislative regulations for that designation (RS 24:513).
corp-not-peop-290x290That regional business organizations have more influence than the public raises questions of proper representation with regard to the use of public money.  The continuous reiteration that regional organizations have no greater influence on an organizational level than the areas of development that they actually influence appears to be representative only of standard political manipulation.  The morning that the first article appeared, the Covington Weekly website received thousands of spam comments and the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce called to correct erroneous information.
Admittedly, mistakes present in the piece were a result of confusion over the array of organizations in existence related to St. Tammany economic development that have overlapping membership.  There was exception taken to the use of the word “above,” thought to indicate a “hierarchy” of organizations, as described in a printed response by Don Shea, St. Tammany Parish Economic Development Director, who, after insulting the public, is no longer under the employ of the Parish Government.
No answer was offered as to why the Parish Government responded on behalf of private individuals initiating contact through a private business organization, or how regional organizations that influence specific areas of development are actually lateral organizations, when the public has no access to them.  The conclusions of this writer are that the Northshore Business Council and the Chamber of Commerce hold a disconcertingly greater degree of influence among the Parish Government than the public, and GNO, Inc. already decided on the direction of St. Tammany’s economic development four years ago.
Full Public Disclosure of EDF activities?  Fuhgeddaboudit.  The Parish is now facing a legislative debate with the D.A.’s office regarding legal representation, a subject that directly relates to the Parish’s Home Rule Charter, a very controversial document of late.   View the St. Tammany Home Rule Charter at stpgov.org.
Contact:   email to covweekly@gmail.com

corpor1