Watchdog pushes lawmakers for changes in levee board appointment - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Watchdog pushes lawmakers for changes in levee board appointments, bill proposed

St. Bernard flood protection structure St. Bernard flood protection structure
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

A local watchdog of the Army Corps of Engineers and levee boards is pushing state lawmakers to add more oversight for levee board appointments. 

Jefferson Parish Representative Patrick Connick filed HB 266 for the 2017 Spring Session to require term limits for nominating committee members for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East and West. 

After Hurricane Katrina, the state revamped the levee system creating levee authorities. 

Members of the authorities have term limits and are appointed by members of a nomination board, but nomination board members do not have term limits and can serve out their terms for life.

Levees.org President Sandy Rosenthal believes the lack of term limits opens the door for possible corruption. 

"This is important because that very small group of people get to decide who will spend $60 million of taxpayer money every single year," Rosenthal said. "We're not saying that the people on the nominating committee aren't committed or that they're not good people. We're not saying that, but what we're saying is, let's shut the barn door before the horse gets out." 

If passed, Connick's bill would stagger terms of four years for nominating committee members and each member could not serve more than two terms. 

Currently, nominating board members are selected by state law. Members are designated by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, the Council for A Better Louisiana, a representative of the Louisiana Geological Survey at Louisiana State University, a member of the Association of State Floodplain Managers designated by the association, a member of the National Society of Black Engineers designated by the society, the dean of the College of Engineering at the University of New Orleans, or his designee, the dean of the School of Science and Engineering at Tulane University, or his designee, the dean of the College of Engineering at Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, or his designee, the dean of the College of Engineering at Louisiana State University, or his designee, a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers designated by the society and a member of the Louisiana Engineering Society.

FOX 8 reached out to nominating board members but did not get a response about the proposal. 

"There were no models to follow when this law was written in 2006. They had to make up the law from scratch. It stands to reason that this law will need to be tweaked moving forward," Rosenthal said. "Let's make sure that the people on the nominating committee don't have that opportunity to gain too much power."

Levee district taxes are included in annual property taxes. 

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