Hammett considers new job
by Sam Hanna, Jr. - posted Wednesday, May 17th, 2006 @ 1:04 pm
Rep. Bryant Hammett is in the running for a new job that would position him to play a role in the expenditure of some $12 billion in community development blocks grants earmarked for hurricane disaster relief efforts in south Louisiana.
Hammett applied for the job and has been negotiating with the state Division of Administration to oversee the infrastructure division of the state's Disaster Recovery Unit.
"It's not a done deal yet," said Hammett, D-Ferriday.
"A final decision on whether I will be offered the job won't be decided until after the legislative session," Hammett said.
Hammett would resign his seat in the Legislature if he is offered the job to oversee the infrastructure division.
The infrastructure division operates within the Disaster Recovery Unit and works with the Louisiana Recovery Authority in appropriating community development block grants Congress gave the state. The state is using some of those block grants for the rebuilding of roads, bridges and water and sewer systems that were damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The Disaster Recovery Unit operates under the state Division of Administration. The unit was created by the Legislature in a special session late last fall.
Congress has appropriated some $8 billion in community development block grants for the Louisiana's recovery efforts.
Meanwhile, Congress is considering and will likely approve another $4 billion in CDBG funds for the state to spend on relief efforts.
"I look at this as a tremendous opportunity to help a lot of folks and do a lot of good," Hammett said.
"I believe I can bring some real-world experience to the bureaucratic process to make all of the rebuilding efforts that are related to infrastructure work in the best interests of the state," Hammett said.
"I think my 23 years of experience in private practice as an engineer would be an asset in overseeing the rebuilding of roads and bridges and water and sewer systems in areas in south Louisiana that were devastated by the hurricanes," Hammett continued. "I think my 15 years of experience in the Legislature in dealing with the legislative process and working on budgetary matters, as well as dealing with bureaucracies, would be asset as well in heading up the infrastructure division in the Disaster Recovery Unit."
News of Hammett possibly leaving the Legislature to take the new job became public after the state Ethics Commission released an opinion saying Hammett could legally take the job at the Disaster Recovery Unit.
Hammett sought the Ethics Commission opinion to determine whether he could maintain his private engineering firm, Bryant Hammett & Associates, and hold the job at the Disaster Recovery Unit as well.
Bryant Hammett & Associates conducts work for the state, but it would be precluded from doing any work for the Disaster Recovery Unit if Hammett takes over at the infrastructure division.
"The professionals who work at Bryant Hammett & Associates are fully capable of running the office should I be offered the job," Hammett said. "They already are running the office in my absence while I'm away on legislative business."
Hammett pointed out that his interest in the position at the Disaster Recovery Unit caused a problem in the legislative session.
"It created a big distraction when the Ethics Commission opinion came out," Hammett said. "We're in the middle of the budget process and in the middle of great deal of other legislative business that must be addressed before the session ends in June."
"When the Ethics Commission opinion became public the Division of Administration said we're not even going to talk about this at this time," Hammett added.
It will be Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc's decision whether to offer Hammett the job at the Disaster Recovery Unit.