In January Ascension President Clint Cointment signed a contract with Insulation Sales & Service to paint 55 fire hydrants on the West Bank at the cost of $759 per hydrant. The contract called for a “not to exceed” amount of $41,745, an exorbitant amount which escaped the Chief Executive’s notice when affixing his signature. Unsurprisingly, Councilman Corey Orgeron blasted the administration even though Cointment had already initiated an investigation by Ascension’s District Attorney.
A late addition to the meeting agenda, the subject item was sponsored by Orgeron, along with Alvin “Coach” Thomas and Aaron Lawler. The project was undertaken at the behest of Councilman Thomas who made the request “a year-and-a-half ago” and authorized by short-lived Utilities Director Matthew Didier whose tenure lasted a few months. Coming in under the $50,000 mark, the contract was not subject to Louisiana Public Bid Law and did not trigger the requirement of Council approval under the parish’s purchasing scheme.
No one is defending the contract which, according to the administration, has not resulted in payment to Insulation Sales & Service as yet. None of which tempered Corey Orgeron’s zeal in a diatribe intended to insinuate wrongdoing by Cointment’s administration for “throwing away silly money.”
“I’ve asked for someone outside the parish (to investigate),” claimed Orgeron who recommended Louisiana’s Attorney General for the job. “It’s a travesty that you have to be worried about your elected officials and what we are doing with your money.”
Cointment was not present on Thursday due to a family matter, leaving CFO Patrick Goldsmith to address the issue. Goldsmith confirmed the ongoing investigation, declining to answer questions pursuant to advice of Legal Counsel Kenneth Dupaty who stated that he had advised all involved to withhold comment. Goldsmith assured that details will be forthcoming when the investigation is concluded “in whatever forum the Council” desires.
None of which placated Councilman Orgeron who took the administration to task on multiple fronts last night. One member took to social media in defense of the parish president. Councilman Michael Mason wrote:
The Parish President did sign the contract for the fire hydrants, but he has to sign all of the contracts as part of his position. In fact, the parish president signs over 3000 contracts a year. He trusts his department heads to do their due diligence, and ensure that the process is done fairly and by the law. He doesn’t micromanage his employees.
District Attorney Ricky Babin assured that his office will undertake a thorough investigation and any wrongdoing will be dealt with in accordance with applicable law. All of which was made known to Corey Orgeron, Alvin “Coach” Thomas and Aaron Lawler prior to Thursday’s meeting. None of which mattered to Orgeron whose mere attendance (he has not bothered to show up for the vast majority of meetings since January 2022) on Thursday was a sure sign that the circus was back in town.
“It doesn’t hide the fact that they’ve known about this for several weeks and they kept quiet on it,” charged Orgeron. “It’s over, and over, and over again for three years we’ve been dealing with this same idiocracy with this administration. And I’m sorry, but it continues time and time again.”
Two years ago Orgeron sued President Cointment in an ill-conceived effort to compel responses to questioning.
$9,896 in attorney fees unpaid, Orgeron appealing his Simple Battery conviction
On August 20, 2021 Judge Tess Stromberg ruled that Orgeron was responsible for attorney’s fees incurred by President Cointment to defend that frivolous lawsuit. Judge Stromberg dismissed Orgeron’s claims which “were not reasonably grounded in Ascension Parish’s Charter” when he purported to act on behalf of the entire Parish Council. More than a year elapsed before Orgeron satisfied the attorney fee obligation which, given his Thursday diatribe, did little to curb his vitriolic behavior.
“It’s a shame that we have to work this way with this administration,” the bombastic councilman’s bellicosity was on full display. “It is what is is and the public will get to make a decision soon, hopefully.”
Election Day is October 14 and we are laying odds that Orgeron’s council tenure is coming to an end in 2023. Councilman Mason put it this way:
“The only idiocracy that was exhibited tonight came from that particular individual, not the administration or anyone else!”
None of which is to say the fire hydrant painting contract should not be investigated. Updates will be forthcoming as details emerge.
A records request was submitted to verify that claim and unearth pertinent documentation surrounding issuance of the contract.