Von Jennings: Alexandria needs effective leadership to move forward

By Sherri L. Jackson
The Light/EverythingCenla

It’s no secret that Von Jennings is seeking to take Mayor Jacques Roy’s seat in October.

And she said she plans to do so by proving that she has the necessary leadership skills to get the job done.

“We need effective leadership that listens to the will of the people,” Jennings told The Light in a one-on-one interview. “The city needs leaders who will develop plans of action and follow through with input from residents. Many have the technical skills to do the job, but lacks leadership skills needed to move the city forward.”

“A good leader has goals to accomplish, and the behavior is based on those goals,” she said.

Though mulling over the decision whether or not to seek the city’s highest office since November 2009, after careful consideration and several conversations with community and business organizations, Jennings officially made her intentions known Tuesday, March 30, when she opened her campaign headquarters at 1012 Third St., across from Alexandria City Hall.

About 40 people attended the event to hear Jennings’ announcement. She is the first to officially announce candidacy.

Jennings said she hopes to bring to her native city the type of leadership she believes is lacking in Alexandria City Hall.

“We need leadership that is open to collaboration with others. I’m positive we can do a better job,” she said. “I have the ability to partner, to collaborate and the willingness to listen the move on and to develop plans of action that can be implemented.”

Jennings worked as an assistant to Mayor Jacques Roy in charge of the city’s AFEAT, which stands for Alexandria Fairness, Equality, Accessibility and Teamwork, a business program which was designed to bring in help minority and emerging business do business with the city. She was terminated in January 2009.

Jennings is a 1991 graduate of Peabody Magnet High School. She has bachelor’s degrees in political science and public administration from Grambling State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Southern University. Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate in public policy.

“I want everyone to appreciate that I am a candidate who will represent all of the citizens of Alexandria. I am willing to work with everyone. We have to understand that there are more issues that we have in common than those that are different,” she said.”

Jennings said she sees the city’s priorities as conservative financial planning, aggressive

economic development, work force development, youth development, drainage and flooding,

affordable utilities and infrastructure projects that will promote economic viability.

“The immediate needs are to have definite financial plans. The city is looking at a deficit. We need more revenue streams,” she said.

Meanwhile, Jennings said the city in its current state needs her leadership skills, which along with experience, make her the “excellent choice” to be the city’s leader.

“Much of my experience and skills are directly tied to those serving as mayor of any leader in a corporation,” she said.

Jennings said as she operates a grassroots campaign she looks forward to meeting all citizens “at their door.”

Blame game full of players at Alexandria City Hall

By Leonard Ford Jr.

Though I have been quiet on the current problems happening over at Alexandria City Hall between Mayor Roy’s administration and some members of the Alexandria City Council, don’t think that I haven’t been keeping up with their shenanigans.

Too much doesn’t get by me. Sometimes I feel that it’s not my place to comment. However, with what has been transpiring at our “hall of bickering” as of late, my self-imposed silence has come to its end.

And that end leads me right into commenting about the deep political divide between our mayor, Jacques, and the city council, especially three of our outspoken councilmen, Myron, Jonathon, and Ed. This political divide both cripples the effectiveness of the council and administration and makes observers throughout Alexandria and surrounding cities wonder what has and is happening in Alexandria City Hall.

Some division between the mayor’s administration and the council is healthy, and disagreement on hot issues is expected. However, after the last several council meetings, there can be little doubt in anyone’s mind that Roy has utter contempt for Myron, Jonathon, and Ed. Likewise, it appears Myron, Jonathon, and Ed have utter contempt for Roy. Simply put, they don’t like each other.

This contempt among the “players” has now reached a new level. Both sides are ready to do battle in their “tit for tat” tug of war, which all boils down to finger pointing about who is making the other look bad in the public eye.

About two weeks ago, it came to light that the City Council, specifically Council President Myron Lawson had spent approximately $71,000 for food and beverages for council meetings. It wasn’t really stated who first brought this spending up. Nevertheless, the excessive spending was discussed in a council meeting. Both the administration and Lawson offered reasons behind the amount of money spent. Each one had their say, which wasn’t good enough for the other. Thus, it was the beginning of another way of “taking the blame off of me and putting it on you.” Discrediting one another can be a bitch.

Now it appears that this “taking the blame off of me and putting it on you” has taken own a life of its own. The Council’s Legal Committee is now pressing for the council’s to discuss a “potential conflict” of interest that involves Mayor Roy and whether or not he was double dipping in the Cleco case as mayor and attorney.

Here’s the thing. Something (the large amount of money spent on food) came out that could possibly make Lawson seem that he did something underhanded. He has not been accused of doing anything, and I want to make that perfectly clear. However, with the maneuvering to bring up the “potential conflict” for Roy, it makes it seem that some people, and I’m not saying who, is trying to take the wolves off Lawson’s tail and put them on Roy’s tail. I’m not saying that this is the case . We are smarter than that.

Then there’s Roy, who has stated that this thing with his “potential conflict” is the council’s (I’m sure that he is not referring to all council members) way for Lawson to “deflect attention” away from him because of the large amount of money spent on food.

This entire mess basically pits two men, who I think a lot of us consider honorable. However, with the way they have been playing the “blame game,” it is getting difficult to say who’s being straightforward, and who’s talking with a “forked tongue.” Roy will have his believers, especially those in his administration who has every confidence in him that he is doing what is right. He will also have those who think he is not right for the office and should go. Lawson will also have his believers, especially his allies on the council, who also have every confidence in him that he is doing a fine job. He also will have those who think that he is wrong for the council and should go.

Let’s see who is still standing come election time.

Private investigator logs of Von Jennings’ whereabouts

The city hired Private Investigator Mark Gravel to follow Von Jennings, Mayor Jacques Roy’ assitant in charge of developing and implementing a program designed to help minority-owned buinesses acquire city contracts. Also, the city used the Utilities Department’ executive secretary to keep tabs on Jennings’ comings and goings. Here are copies of what was submitted to the city’s administration:

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Leonard Ford: Something stanks at Alexandria City Hall

 

            Extra! Extra! Read all about it. Things are running afoul at City Hall in downtown Alexandria, and it’s getting ugly.”

            For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the shenanigans at City Hall, I’m speaking of the investigation and the subsequent termination of Von Jennings, the mayor’s assistant in charge of developing and implementing a program designed to help minority- and women-owned businesses secure city contracts.

            Sometimes back in December, Mayor Roy put Jennings first on a paid administrative leave then without for allegedly being disloyal to him. Jennings claims the mayor did so because of she allegedly leaked privileged information about certain city matters supposedly to certain City Council members. With the rift going on between Mayor Roy and the majority black council members, her leaking information to Roy’s adversaries was a serious betrayal of the trust that he had in her. 

            After Jennings was placed on administrative leave, things began to go downhill for her as word came out from city administration that she was not adequately performing her job. Things such as not following up with contacts and returning telephone calls, not moving projects forward, failure to attend scheduled meetings, not working cooperatively with other workforce entities, and not being at work when she was supposed to eventually resulted in her termination.

            What I want to know is why these allegations of Jennings’ poor work performance did not surface prior to Roy supposedly found out that she had been leaking information to others. Here’s my thing. Jennings had been in her position for almost two years, and by some account, she was performing her work and performing it well. At the 2007 Central Louisiana Business League’s Gala, Roy praised Jennings for her excellent work. To me, that indicates that she was performing her duties and responsibilities. Would Roy praise members of his administrative staff who weren’t doing their jobs.

            Another thing that I find puzzling is that Jennings’ so-called failure to complete certain aspects of her job was known by Roy’s chief operating officer, Kay Michiels, as she sent an e-mail to Jennings on Aug. 7  informing her that she had heard repeatedly from others that she was not performing her job duties and responsibilities. There’s no doubt in my mind that Michiels met with Roy and informed him of the apparent situation concerning Jennings. I would think that this was something that he definitely needed to know, especially if it concerned someone on his staff. Jennings poor work performance must have not been that big of a deal at the time because if it was, Roy would have put her on notice that she needed to improve her work by first giving her an oral warning, and if improvement wasn’t shown, giving her a written warning, and finally, if some improvement still wasn’t noticed, putting her on administrative leave.

            From what I know of this case from either reading published reports or word-of-mouth from those who are privy to the ins/outs of this disagreement between Jennings and Roy, I haven’t found anything that speaks of Roy starting disciplinary action on Jennings before December 2008.

            Now, if Roy had started disciplinary action by doing what I indicated above, and Jennings did not meet the measures that he had set forth for her, he would have had every right to terminate her after placing her on administrative leave, but that didn’t happen. As to why no action was taken by the administration is anyone’s guess, as disciplinary action is a standard practice used by most local, state, and federal agencies to weed out bad and underperforming employees. In the administration’s eye, Jennings was an underperforming employee, yet she was still allowed to continue doing her work as usual. Go figure.

            Everything that has happened to Jennings has all the markings of a something foul. It’s a cover up by Roy to get rid of an employee who was not a “team player,”and who was disloyal. Using her work performance was a ruse. Roy, who stated that Jennings was an at-will employee on his staff who worked at his pleasure, could have terminated her just on her leaking information. Yes, there would have been questions as to the reason she was terminated, but Roy wouldn’t had have to give an answer.

            Towards the end of Ned Randolph’s administration, he terminated three employees. When asked why, he never really gave a clear reason for doing so. To this day, no one really can say why the three were terminated. Roy could have done the same instead of coming up with that bull about Jennings poor work performance. But hey, he is looking ahead; he’s got to CYA.

            One would think that by Jennings’ termination from her position, Roy wouldn’t have anything else to say about her, but that is not the case. When he reintroduced his Diversity In Action Plan, he stated that it only took between 60 to 90 days to fully implement it, as it wasn’t done in the two years that Jennings was in charge of it. Roy didn’t come out and directly say Jennings’ name, but his reference to the work not being done clearly pointed to Jennings.  

            Roy has let us know that he is the man in charge at city hall, and that he has no problems playing hardball to get what he wants. That includes having his administrative staff hire a private investigator to follow staff around to document your every movement. He states that he had no knowledge of an investigation of Jennings. Come on, Jacques, you’re the mayor, and you had no inclination that this was going to take place. Give us a break.

            A word of wise to those of you work directly under the mayor –“you’ve better keep your nose clean, keep information to yourself, do your work, and bow down to Jacques if you want to keep your job.