[StBernard] East bank levee authority nominating committee meets Thursday, but may not choose nominees

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Mar 6 00:29:12 EST 2014

East bank levee authority nominating committee meets Thursday, but may not
choose nominees
Print Mark Schleifstein, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By Mark Schleifstein,
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
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on March 05, 2014 at 5:24 PM, updated March 05, 2014 at 5:41 PM

The independent committee that selects nominees to sit on the east bank
levee authority board will meet Thursday (March 6), but it's unclear whether
its members will forward new names to Gov. Bobby Jindal to fill the expired
term of the authority's president.

Jindal has been feuding with the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection
Authority-East since last July, when the authority filed a wetlands damage
lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies over his objections.

In September, Jindal appointed nominees recommended by the committee to
three of four seats on the authority, replacing members whose terms had
expired with individuals who support his attempts to halt the suit.

But the committee recommended in September that Jindal either reappoint
President Tim Doody or appoint retired 4th Circuit Court of Appeal Judge
David Gorbaty to a fourth seat representing St. Bernard Parish.

Garret Graves, then chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration
Authority, informed the committee in January that the governor considers
Doody to have a conflict of interest forbidding him to serve on the levee

Gorbaty also had a conflict, Graves said, because he is now an unpaid
employee of St. Bernard Parish, and authority members are prohibited from
working for the parishes included in the levee authority. Gorbaty has since
removed his name from consideration, according to a member of the committee.

The nominating committee is likely to discuss whether it must accept Graves'
contention that Doody has a conflict of interest, and whether the governor
had the authority to reject the committee's nominee.

It also will discuss whether to adopt rules governing the nominating

Doody has said that he has no conflict of interest that would prohibit him
from serving on the authority board.

"The purpose of this meeting is for us all to get together and clarify where
the committee is on making a nomination and what the procedure should be,"
said Robert Scott, a committee member and president of the Public Affairs
Research Council.

The meeting occurs just days before the beginning of the 2014 session of the
Legislature, which will consider a bill by state Sen. Robert Adley,
R-Benton, that would give the governor the power to reject all nominees for
an authority board seat recommended by the committee, and would require the
committee to continue submitting new nominees to the governor until he found
one that was acceptable.

Adley's proposal is opposed by Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, formed in
the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which successfully lobbied the
Legislature to adopt language that set up the two New Orleans region levee
authorities and created the authority board selection process requiring
members to be professionals, including scientists and engineers, and that
the selection process be free of politics.

And in a Feb. 27 letter to the committee, representatives of Citizens
questioned whether the committee should now accept the governor's rejection
of Doody, and urged it to adopt rules that will assure the selection process
remains free of political influence.

"The Nominating Committee cannot simply accede to the proposition that a
governor --” any governor --€” is entitled to reject its nominees and
request new names," said the letter signed by Citizens chairwoman Laura
Politz and founder Ruthie Frierson. "Doing so would undermine the
independence of the nominating process and inflict major damage on the
scientific integrity of the SLFPA."

The letter said the law setting up the authorities is silent on how the
nominating committee should proceed when confronted with allegations that
nominees are ineligible, and recommended that legislation be submitted to
the upcoming session to address the problem.

"The Nominating Committee need not await legislative direction, however, and
should adopt policies that will protect rather than undermine the
independence and integrity of the nominating process," the letter said.

The group recommended that the committee remain in control of the decision
to reopen the nominating process, that a decision to reopen that process be
made in an open public meeting that is properly advertised, and be done by
majority vote. It recommend that the decision to reopen the nominations be
based on criteria set by the nominating committee, and that the standards
for reopening the nominations "should be set at a high threshold, such as
'clear and convincing' evidence of ineligibility."

The issue raised by Graves and the governor's office concerning Doody's
potential conflict stem from his job as an accountant for the Chaffe McCall
law firm in New Orleans.

Doody has said his firm asked him to recuse himself from voting on issues
involving the wetlands damage lawsuit because the law firm might end up
representing one of the defendant companies. But Doody says his position at
the firm doesn't represent a conflict of interest, since he's not a lawyer
and the firm does not now represent any of the companies.

New Orleans lawyer Joe Hassinger Jr., a partner in the Galloway Johnson
Tompkins Burr and Johnson law firm and one of Jindal's new appointees to the
authority board, also has had to address the question of whether he had a
conflict that would prohibit him from serving, since his law firm does
represent several energy companies involved in the suit.

On Dec. 23, the Louisiana Board of Ethics said Hassinger could remain a
member because his firm's legal work did not include the levee suit.
Hassinger had requested the opinion.

Doody has voted only once on an issue involving the lawsuit, and that vote
was whether to go into an executive session to discuss the suit. He was
forced to vote in that case because there was a tie vote.

Under the authority's rules, the president votes only in the event of a tie.
Doody did not vote on the original motion to hire attorneys to represent the
authority in filing the lawsuit, or on a later resolution reconfirming that
vote after Jindal's nominees became members of the board, because neither
resulted in a tie.

If the committee were to decide Thursday to consider nominees, five
candidates have applied for the St. Bernard seat, including Tim Doody.

The others are Sean Doody, a State Farm Insurance agent who is Tim Doody's
brother; lawyer Michael Ginart Jr., a former St. Bernard Parish councilman;
David Maag, a Tulane University information systems specialist; and Holt
Fastring, a mechanical and safety engineer who lives in Baton Rouge.
Fastring may not be eligible for that seat because he doesn't live in St.
Bernard Parish and because the seat is reserved for a non-engineer.

The nomination committee meeting is at noon at Laitram, LLC, 5307 Toler St.,

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