For months now the operation of Terrebonne Parish’s recreation boards has raised questions that still go without answers, although some answers will come once requested oversight is granted to the Parish Council.
Council members will have an opportunity to approve an ordinance guaranteeing them oversight, with structures in place for rapidly replacing members of recreation boards who don’t do their jobs. Anyone with a concern for how recreation develops in this parish should contact their council member and make sure their views are communicated. Oversight never hurt anyone, and extra oversight provides an extra margin of safety. It is clear at this point that initial auditing will focus on two key districts that have demonstrated problems, District 2-3 and District 11.
Others will merit close looks as needed.
It is interesting to note that two of the districts deemed most problematic are those that serve the greater Houma area, right under the noses of the administration and the council.
It is also interesting to note that despite all the noise generated by the council during the recent controversies, little has been done so far to examine as much as needs to be examined about District 2-3.
If any of us was suspected of violating the law, an investigation begins and facts are assembled. Whether prosecution is warranted or not is a decision that must wait sometimes. But the initial investigation begins. We can’t say with certainty that members of Board 2-3 have committed malfeasance, but failing to do what every other recreation board in this parish seems to have done, such as hold open meetings and secure legal counsel so that they are not winging it when important decisions must be made. Asking the parish attorney occasionally for advice if at all is like having big legal issues at home and rather than having an attorney occasionally asking your brother-in-law when he stops by for coffee. You get what you pay for.
In this regard Parish President Gordon Dove has taken a leadership role. In a letter to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, Dove attached copies of Houma Times articles detailing allegations of District 2-3 mismanagement. In the same letter, Dove formally notified District Attorney Joe Waitz Jr. of the same.
Dove said he was referring the matter because state law requires “an agency head of an auditee who has actual knowledge or reasonable cause to believe that there has been a misappropriation pf the public funds or assets of his agency shall immediately notify (the legislative auditor and the district attorney.)
Gordon Dove is, to our knowledge, the first public official to do this in regard to Recreation District 2-3. His letter pulls no punches.
In order to follow what the law says Gordon Dove did not wait for an ordinance. He acted on what he knew to be his duty under the law.
For our parish to effectively function at all levels, there needs to be more of this and less concern about whose feelings are hurt in the process. Already, the District Attorney is suffering from credibility issues in this case because one of his long-time investigators is the brother of a District 2-3 board member. There is no indication that anything wrong has been done. But Joe Waitz has sent cases for examination to the Attorney General because of conflicts far less obvious. He should have done it in this case as well. Even if no laws were broken by District 2-3, his office would not have been part of the gossip mill.
Meanwhile, the oversight option for Parish Council members looms real, and they must act upon it. As Parish President Dove’s letter makes clear, a lot is at stake now. A lot more could be at stake in the future. Don’t leave the vote on the oversight ordinance to chance. Contact your parish council representative today and make your views as clear as those expressed by Gordon Dove.