Metro Council members finalize plans for Council on Aging changes

    As the city-parish moves toward implementing a tax increase that will fund the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, two Metro Council members have finalized their plan for the council to gain authority over the COA’s board.

    Republican Councilmen Buddy Amoroso and Dwight Hudson have been working on the proposals for several months, and they plan to add them to the city-parish and COA’s cooperative endeavor agreement during the council’s April 12 meeting.

    The agreement, which Amoroso calls standard, was added today to the agenda of next week’s council meeting for introduction. Amoroso and Hudson will offer amendments to the item.

    “We feel that these items are so important that any private group that’s operating with taxpayer money should have these items,” Amoroso says, adding he and Hudson decided to amend the cooperative endeavor agreement rather than bring a separate one.

    The proposed amendments would make the COA subject to open meetings and public records laws, require the agency to file quarterly financial reports and mandate that its staff take ethics training, according to a copy of the amended agreement provided to Daily Report by Hudson. It would also give the Metro Council the ability to ratify all COA board members.

    It’s unclear what kind of support the measures will have from the full Metro Council, as Amoroso says he doesn’t “count noses.” He plans to bring forth the changes regardless of the appetite for them among council members. Other Republicans on the council also have criticized the COA in the past.

    “I feel like it should (get council support),” Hudson says. “These are pretty basic protections we’re asking for. They’re not anything objectionable or burdensome on the Council on Aging.”
    The COA last year ruffled feathers when its leadership and staff allegedly ran afoul of campaign and nonprofit rules, according to a local attorney who investigated the agency. Voters in November approved a new property tax to provide a dedicated funding stream to the agency.

    The agency on Monday announced it will hold a series of public meetings to get input from the community on how best to spend the roughly $8 million per year it will receive from the tax. The next meeting will take place from 1-2:30 p.m. on March 22 at 5790 Florida Blvd. See a complete schedule of the COA’s community’s meetings. 

    The COA gets money from federal, state and local governments, as well as private organizations. It offers 18 service programs, including Meals on Wheels, and says the new dollars will allow it to eliminate current wait lists and expand services. It also created a task force to decide how best to spend the additional money.

    Read a recent Business Report cover story on the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging.

    —Sam Karlin

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