SADOW: Bossier City Eyes Another Questionable Sweetheart Deal

If you thought a recent plan for Bossier City to pay for directing traffic around schools was questionable and convoluted, wait until you hear about this one.

In the City Council’s first meeting of the month, it took the first step towards spending over $25,000 to give to the Bossier Parish School Board to give to the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office to pay for traffic control on Bossier City streets around schools despite there being a whole police department available to perform that function. Fortunately, at its most recent meeting without explanation it withdrew that item from its agenda.

Yet this two-step didn’t seem nearly as complicated as to what would follow. Reviving an issue that first surfaced early in the year, the Council took the first step towards hiring on a contractual basis former deputy police chief Dale Teutsch at salary equating to $55,000 a year, to serve as liaison from the city’s Legal Department to its Police Department on issues related to staffing and organization consequent to civil service law. The ordinance went onto the back burner when ethics concerns were raised about the fact that Teutsch is city Chief Administrative Officer Amanda Nottingham’s father.

That prompted city attorney Charles Jacobs to ask the state’s Board of Ethics to review the matter. Originally, he inquired as to whether the city could contract with Nottingham’s stepmother’s company or to contract Teutsch through the police department, but then settled on making him a contractor to the Legal Department to advise the Police Department on personnel matters. Rigging this six degrees of separation thus removed the potential for Nottingham to have a supervisorial relationship with Teutsch which otherwise would run afoul of nepotism laws, courtesy of the city Charter’s not allowing delegation of Legal Department duties by the mayor to the CAO, so the Board’s Opinion #2022-206 concluded.

The contracting was desirable, as the Board said Jacobs had led it to believe, since the newly-selected police chief – Chris Estess, who was named two months after the first try to hire Teutsch while serving as the interim chief – was inexperienced in department administration, staffing and organization, and needed help to make a smooth transition. Estess joined the department in 1988 and since held a number of posts, most prominently prior to his interim appointment as the head of internal affairs and a shift supervisor, both of which delve into administration and issues of staffing and organization.

Of course, by the time anybody would be hired Estess will have been on the job for several months, during which time all has appeared quiet on the department staffing front. Keep in mind as well that the Legal Department is budgeted for over $500,000 this year, about 60 percent for salaries, and the money to pay for this contract is coming out of the Police Department, which doesn’t exactly keep the lines of accountability straight.

The original February ordinance had set the salary at $60,000 a year, to be drawn from the Insurance Liability Fund, used to account for contributions from city departments for the payment of workman’s compensation and liability insurance claims, for which withdrawal to pay a contracted wage seems inappropriate, hence six months later passing multiple ordinances to take the money out of the Police Department overbudgeted for salaries because not all available positions have been filled over the year and put it in the Legal Department to pay the contract. The original ordinance also had attached to it the contract, which specified the job at hand:

[Assist to ensure compliance with] rules and regulations concerning any and all reorganization and/ or personnel decisions concerning both the Police Department and the Fire Department. [Advise] concerning and/all Civil Service statutes, rules and regulations effecting or possibly affecting any proposed changes to either the structure or day to day operations of both said departments. [Advise] as to all proposed changes to the written policy and procedures as to operations and discipline of said departments, specifically any effect of said Civil Service statutes, rules and regulations as to such proposed changes or amendments offered by both said departments.

The Council approved the funds transfer, then hemmed and hawed over the hiring schedule and pro-rating the contract, and ended up punting the matter until next meeting.

But what it didn’t ask was whether this expenditure truly was necessary. Estess has some experience in these matters. Jacobs was an elected district judge before resigning to take the city attorney post, and he has assistant city attorney Richard Ray as a resource to draw upon as well. It seems inconceivable that among them they wouldn’t have the training and experience, as well as use of the department’s ample monetary resources, to undertake such a task. And while Teutsch has the experience – already a veteran officer when Estess joined the department – and undoubtedly dealt with personnel matters, he doesn’t have a law degree.

Note as well this is a no-bid contract. As permitted under law, Bossier City historically has not followed the recommendations of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to follow the state’s Public Bid Law for professional contracts, which is obtaining three quotes for services costing between $10,000 and $30,000, and soliciting bids for the purchase of services exceeding $30,000. From the gun, five months after Nottingham became CAO, the idea has been to groove the work to Teutsch.

This incuriosity on the part of councilors and muteness on part of the Republican Mayor Tommy Chandler Administration omitting public justification that would assuage taxpayers that unneeded and duplicative spending won’t occur is behavior that disserves the public. Until a solid case is made in both instances as to the absolute necessity of contracting current sheriff’s deputies and/or a specific retired deputy police chief, councilors must not approve of either expenditure.

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