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Monday, July 2, 2018

SWEENEY’S CONTRACT

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MPC board gets it right, sorta

A special meeting of the board of the directors of the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) was held on Monday, June 25, in the MPC conference room.

The only agenda item was to review the employment contract with MPC Executive Director Mark Sweeney.

Sweeney’s current contract expires this year on Sept. 30. The contract has an automatic “roll over” clause for another year unless a vote was taken by June 30 to void this provision.

Good public policy principles are for public employees to be “at will,” and not to be under contract.

This means termination can be made at any time by the employer. Shreveport Chief Administrative Officer Brian Crawford and Caddo Administrator Dr. Woodrow Wilson do not have employment contracts. Neither do their counterparts in Bossier City and Bossier Parish.

Sweeney is the only public employee in north Louisiana with an employment agreement. Since the contract involved a personnel matter, the MPC board went into executive session for two hours.

When the executive session ended and the regular meeting resumed, the MPC Board voted 5-4 not to allow the employment contract to roll over. Theron Jackson, Curtis Joseph, Ronnie Remedies, Dale Colvin and Alan Young voted in the majority. The other board members – Les Desmarteau, Nancy Cooper, Winzer Andrews and Bessie Smith – voted against termination of the contract.

This board also voted for the Executive Committee to negotiate with Sweeney and render a report by the November meeting on a new contract. This was a contested vote that passed 6-3.

Colvin, Remedies and Young voted against this proposal. Obviously, Desmarteau and her sidekick, Cooper, who is an attorney, do not understand the law of an “at will” employee. At the open meeting, they insisted that Sweeney is an “at will” employee under his current contract.

This is totally incorrect because the contract sets forth various actions that constitute the basis for employment termination. The contract also has provisions concerning payment to Sweeney upon early termination.

An “at will” employee does not need a contract. This employee can be terminated at any time by the employer for any reason. And an “at will” employee is only paid salary and benefits through the date of termination.

Unless the termination is based upon race, sex or age, the employee can only recover unemployment compensation.

It’s apparent that many of the MPC Board have not considered the funding challenges the MPC will have in its 2018 budget. Both the Shreveport City Council and the Caddo Commission cut the MPC funding in 2017.

Dissatisfaction with the MPC has increased this year as its case load dwindles.

If the MPC votes in November to enter into a new contract with Sweeney, drastic funding cuts by the Council and the Commission can be expected.

The MPC is a separate legal entity. This year the city funded approximately $800,000 and the parish $200,000 for its operations.

The MPC Board, in theory, supervises Sweeney and his staff. The board consists of four appointees from the city and four from the parish. The last member is a joint appointee.

The MPC is a public agency that has no accountability to the electorate, or for that matter, to elected officials. The board members have four-year terms, and they also have no accountability to the public. This is a classic example of government gone amok.

John E. Settle Jr. has been a resident of Shreveport since January 1977. His articles appear regularly in local publications. He can be reached at 742-5513 or e-mail to: secretary@jesettle.com.

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