A nominating committee created by voters to keep politics out of local levee boards has apparently put politics aside to support a board member Gov. Bobby Jindal had been trying to replace.
Paul Kemp, an LSU geologist and oceanographer, was nominated to remain in a technical position on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East board with a 7-3 vote of the nominating committee.
Kemp backs the levee authority's lawsuit against 92 oil and gas companies demanding that they pay for the role they played in causing coastal land loss in Louisiana. Jindal calls the lawsuit "frivolous" and has, with his last four appointments, moved closer to a five-vote majority needed to get the board to withdraw the lawsuit.
Jindal also backed and signed a new law this year that tries to retroactively kill the lawsuit, but its constitutionality has been challenged in federal court.
So, Jindal was waiting for the nominating committee to give him an anti-lawsuit candidate to replace Kemp. But now he will be compelled to send Kemp's name on to the Senate for confirmation.
The 7-3 margin was a bit of a surprise because Kemp only managed a 5-4 vote of support on Sept. 18, short of the six votes necessary for the nomination.
But an additional committee member showed up for the re-vote Friday, and then Jerry Klier of the American Society of Civil Engineers changed his vote to back Kemp.
Klier had previously backed Mark Morgan, an engineer who was qualified for the technical position but acknowledged potential conflicts of interest because he owns a chemical cleanup company that has contracts with state agencies, the West Bank levee authority and oil companies, including at least one of the defendants in the levee board lawsuit.
Both The New Orleans Advocate and The Times-Picayune ran editorials this week urging the nominating committee to put politics aside and support Kemp.