“If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”-The Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismark
$50,000…, er, $49,999 worth of sausage being made is not a pretty sight to see, not even when you wrap it in a brand new casing named institutional knowledge. That was newly-confected terminology adopted by East Ascension Drainage Commissioners and a parish president to rationalize the $50,000, er, $49,999 Consulting Agreement-William Roux during another less than stellar meeting of the Board on Monday. So odious that multiple commissioners FINALLY questioned the deal, the vote was delayed until the next regularly scheduled meeting on November 8.
“I would like to find out more about what this position is gonna do,” Councilman Dal Waguespack, sitting Ex Officio along with nine other east bank Ascension council members, declared (nearly four months after voting to approve an even more odious contract with Roux on June 28). “Just a little more discussion about what the role is.”
A little more discussion is not exactly accurate since it implies that some discussion, any discussion, about the position had occurred before. On June 28 Waguespack and five others voted to approve Roux’s company (he filed incorporation papers four days earlier) to be an interim Drainage CEO’s for a $140,000 salary until a permanent CEO could be hired, with an annual $50,000 consulting fee thereafter. It was one among four votes (all reversed by the commission on Monday) which included an item divesting the parish president’s authority over EA Drainage works.
Initially ignoring public outcry, the majority finally balked and entered into negotiations with President Cointment after a nudge from Ascension’s Chamber of Commerce. Eventually a deal was concocted to preserve presidential authority, obviating the need for an interim CEO but the sausage makers-in-chief were stuck with Bill Roux. The erstwhile drainage czar can only squeeze $49,999 out of the machine this time around.
That is due to Louisiana Bid Law and Ascension’s Ordinance 2-82 which requires the convening of a “professional services selection committee” had another dollar been added to the contract. It reads:
“Any contract for professional services or consultant work…which would result in a fee in the amount of $50,000, shall be awarded based on the recommendation of the professional services committee.”
Still, Roux’s proposed fee (Fifty Dollars/Hr. ($50/Hr) not to exceed $49,999 per year. Consultant will submit monthly invoices) seems excessive for what one public speaker deemed “babysitting” services. The contract includes eight items of responsibility:
East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District #1 (EADD) and William Roux (Consultant) does hereby inter (sic) into a consulting agreement to:
- Act as liaison between the EADD Commissioners and the Ascension Parish President for the purpose of providing a clear exchange of information and concerns relative to the performance of lawful drainage activities within East Ascension Consolidated Drainage District.
- Aid in the resolution of conflicts between EADD Commissioners and the Parish President/Staff.
- Provide opinions to the Parish President and EAD Commissioners for consideration on matters and/or projects concerning the EADD.
- Attend Project and Consultant Engineering meetings to obtain a clear understanding of the status and scope of existing and proposed drainage projects.
- Attend Drainage Board meetings as an observer only unless asked to provide confidential information to individual Board members or the Parish President. No public comments.
- Attend Regional Governmental meetings pertaining to multi agency projects when requested.
- Attend USACOE meetings when requested.
- Provide other services as agreed to by Consultant, EADD Board and Parish President.
Councilman Michael Mason pointed out the superfluity of the liaison position when a Drainage Director is going to be hired with a salary range between $135-210,000. Even Councilman Aaron Lawler, who we suspect is the architect of this entire fiasco, conceded the excess when he moved to amend the contractual terms to add an actual task: “To develop and present a drainage conveyance/maintenance plan for presentation no later than the March 2022 EACGDD committee meeting.”
“Mr. Roux had done this before,” Lawler reasoned, lauding Roux’s institutional knowledge. “He said he can do it. I think he can get it done well before March 2022.”
“I think we’ve heard everybody up here talk about it, how we want a maintenance plan,” he continued. “This is an opportunity to get it.”
Lawler went on to claim that Roux had instituted such a maintenance plan, but it went away because crews were diverted to “political” jobs at the behest of elected officials (he didn’t specifically name EA Drainage Chairman Dempsey Lambert). Which begs the questions; why can’t the parish pull that one out of mothballs? Have Ascension’s waterways and roadside ditches changed so much to render the plan ineffective?
A maintenance plan has been, according to Lawler, on the council wish list “for years,” almost as long as Bill Roux’s 18-year tenure over EA Drainage.
Speaking of sausage making, Council Chairwoman Teri Casso (who cited his institutional knowledge) qualified her vote to defer the Roux contract until November 8, seeking a commitment from her colleagues and President Cointment’s administration that the deal would get done in three weeks. Of course, any such commitment is meaningless and unenforceable. No matter; Bill Roux will be hired as Drainage Liaison.
Approved on Monday, the Addendum to the Existing Contract whereby the Parish President and Parish Government controls drainage works includes the following:
The Parish President shall have no objection to the contracting of a Drainage Liaison to EACGDD in the capacity of drainage consultant to EACGDD and liaison between the Parish President and EACGDD Board of Commissioners. This contract will be executed within 30 days and the individual selected will be mutually agreed upon by the Parish President and the EACGDD Board. (Emphasis added).
President Cointment, working from the same script as Casso and Lawler, expressed that requisite agreement:
“It’s worth $50,000 for us all to work together,” he concluded, adding a dollar to the (Not to Exceed) contract amount. “I’m in full support of it…(Roux’s) institutional knowledge will benefit all of us.”