There has been much media coverage about the huge overtime paid to New Orleans public school janitor Alphonse Davis Sr., who also happened to be the father of Orleans Parish School Board CEO Alphonse Davis Jr. However, at least according to some citizen activists, a worse scandal exists in Jefferson Parish.
Margaret Baird, chairman of Citizens Against New Taxes (CANT), reports that Jefferson Parish Public School System Plant Manager Jerome Payadue worked almost 50 percent more overtime in fiscal year 2001 than the elder Davis in Orleans Parish, according to published reports. In 2001, Payadue earned $55,188 in overtime pay, compared to a base salary of $31,059. To earn this pay, at time-and-a-half compensation, Payadue would have had to work 47.4 hours of overtime per week, without any time being allocated for sick days, holidays or vacation. Baird is more than skeptical about the hours reported by Payadue. "It would be virtually impossible for an individual to consistently work that many hours, since this is equivalent to two full-time, 40-hour-a-week jobs plus an additional 7.4 hours, without time off," she says.
The Jefferson Parish Public School System has not taken any direct action against Payadue, and this upsets Baird who believes that resources are being mismanaged. "This is inexcusable and is particularly outrageous at a time when the Jefferson Parish School Board is asking the taxpayers of Jefferson to approve a huge increase in schools taxes -- a half-cent sales tax for the schools which would cost Jefferson taxpayers $3.5 million per year," she says.
However, Jefferson Parish School Board member Judy Colgan gives a much different analysis. Colgan cites a Feb. 20 measure passed by the school board in response to the Payadue controversy that bars any employee from receiving more than 25 percent of their total compensation from overtime. This measure became effective June 1, 2002. In addition, from now on, any outside groups using Jefferson Parish Public School facilities will be required to pay salary and benefits to employees that have to work overtime hours to keep those facilities open.
Baird says that CANT is still recommending that Louisiana Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle investigate this matter.
Battle Over Bucktown
Jefferson Parish officials -- in conjunction with developer Sonny Elrich, owner of Bucktown Marina -- are hoping to build a self-supporting, public marina in Bucktown that has room for at least 400 boats, an office building, restaurants and retail establishments. The Jefferson Parish councilman who represents the district, Nick Giambelluca, thinks the development will be a very positive development for the Bucktown area. "The land values are going out of sight because of this development," he says.
However, the civic association in the area, The East End Bucktown Association, is not happy with these plans for commercial development. Leading the charge against the plans is association president, Angelo Persica. "Jefferson officials favor a convoluted scheme in which taxpayers indemnify a commercial district with a $12 million bond issue," he says.
Instead of the plan favored by Jefferson officials, Persica points to an alternative design proposed by the Dr. Robert Azar Foundation. Persica believes the Azar plan is preferable because it blends marina progress with genuine public access. "We endorse this Azar Plan without reservation," he says. "Furthermore, on June 4, we launched a parish-wide petition to strenuously oppose any modification to lease or permit of Bucktown Marina Harbor."
Persica is hoping that a strong public outcry will lead to a delay in marina construction, which is slated to start in October of this year. Giambelluca dismisses the Bucktown group as a small minority of critics and cites poll numbers showing overwhelming support for the project.
Jones Ready for Challenge
District 3 Jefferson Parish Council member Donald Jones has set his sights on the position of Council chairman next year. Current chairman Aaron Broussard is the prohibitive favorite to be elected as the next parish president; term limits will prevent Jones and some of his colleagues from running for their old district seats, so three of them will be running for the top Council job.
Joining Jones in the race will be fellow Council members Lloyd Giardina and Ed Muniz. Jones calls his competitors good friends. "I have nothing but good relationships with them," he says.
Jones was first elected in 1991 and next year will be completing his third term. If elected as Council chairman, Jones says he will have two main goals. "I want to create an environment where people can achieve a good quality of life and business people can do business," he says. The African-American Democrat points to his pro-business track record as a council member, pointing out that during his tenure "District 3 has enjoyed more economic growth than any other district."
Jones also points to his involvement in the re-development of the Manhattan Boulevard corridor and the re-creation of Lapalco Boulevard as the "Veterans of the West Bank," in addition to his authorship of a bill to create a special gaming district for the Boomtown Casino on the Harvey Canal.
Jones is planning an extensive grassroots campaign that focuses on door-to-door canvassing. He expects to spend $300,000 in the primary and $250,000 in the run-off. He currently has $150,000 in the bank and is planning a fundraiser every month from now until the election.