Like an old dog with fleas, a bad hip, and a leaky bladder, the problems of the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) just keep becoming more and more obvious, --and harder to ignore.
Seemingly these are not a concern for the MPC Executive Director Mark Sweeney. He just had a tax payer paid holiday with key staff members this past weekend in the Big Easy at a convention.
Of course he took along the MPC Board member who hired him, Lea Desmarteau, and her MPC BFF Nancy Cooper, who is now MPC vice president. And Winzer Andrews who always votes along Sweeney lines.
How many of the MPC staff and whether or not Sweeney’s other 2 MPC buds, Theron Jackson (MPC President) and Curtis Joseph, traveled along is not yet known. (Yes, a public records request has been made).
Jackson and Curtis may have stayed in town to work on the latest Cross Bayou development farce. They are two of the three local principals in this proposed project.
Interestingly enough, those two will not be able to vote on the myriad of MPC approvals that will be needed for the project because of a conflict of interest. Thus, the four anti Sweeney board members will have the majority. Jackson and Joseph have not endeared themselves to that crowd, to say the least. So, good luck on those MPC votes!
Sweeney was back in his office on Tuesday (April 24) from his New Orleans hiatus.
His “welcome back home present” was a letter from Shreveport attorney Allison Jones updating Sweeney, the MPC Board members, Shreveport City Attorney Will Bradford, the Shreveport Council, Parish Attorney Donna Frazier, and the Caddo Parish Commission on the claims of Judy Negrete over an alleged unlawful MPC termination employment by Sweeney.
Jones alleges age discrimination and retaliation under the Louisiana whistleblower statute. Ms. Negrete was a long time MPC employee singled out for termination along with 2 others who were white, and over the age of 40.
Jones has now filed a charge on behalf of her client with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights. Jones says litigation will soon be forthcoming.
The City of Shreveport and Caddo Parish fund the MPC. Jones has indicated that she will name the City and the Parish along with the MPC as defendants.
Leaving the Negrete matter aside, Sweeney has other wolves at this door.
Councilman James Flurry is leading a charge to create a city zoning and permit office. Flurry wants the operations of the MPC, as they affect all the property within the city limits, to be handled by a newly created city department. The Council vote has been scheduled for May 8.
The Caddo Commission is also discussing a separate office for MPC cases that are within the four mile radius of the city limits.
Sweeney also has another problem.
His initial budget for 2018 was approved by the MPC Board last fall for submission to the City and the Commission. The MPC submitted the same funding requests for 2018 that had been approved for 2017.
The Commission cut his 2018 budget request by $20 grand. The City then adjusted their 2018 MPC funding by $190,000 to confirm to the funding criteria in an MPC Economic Feasibility Study.
The MPC Bylaws specifically require that the budget or any amendments be approved by the full Planning Commission. The MPC board did not approve the revised MPC budget for 2018 after the funding cuts.
And to add all this is pressure on Sweeney from the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce to make things right.
The recent town hall meeting drew over 100 angry members of the building and planning community who complained about MPC fees, staff hostility, and the onerous requirements of the Unified Development Code that Sweeney orchestrated. A second town hall meeting is to be scheduled and Sweeney can expect to be roasted, not toasted, again.
The upcoming council vote on internalizing the MPC will be a campaign issue for Furry, and the others running for re-election this fall. (Jerald Bowman, Willie Bradford and Stephanie Lynch). And for those termed out (Jeff Everson, Oliver Jenkins, and Michael Corbin), their votes on the MPC will be a part of their legacy.