Sorrento to gather evidence for potential lawsuit against EA Drainage

Robert Debate (standing at left) presents to the council on Tuesday

Ascension Parish Government and East Ascension Drainage Board have long maintained that revenues generated from two taxes may only be spent on “major drainage.”  The term, though, has never been defined according to Sorrento Town Attorney Matthew Percy who described a records request preparatory to a potential lawsuit at Tuesday’s meeting of the Town Council.  Percy’s comments followed a lengthy presentation by Sorrento elder statesman, Robert Debate, who has witnessed local drainage progressively worsen over nearly eight decades.

Percy’s records request asks for itemized expenditures from the parish drainage funds.  How much has been spent within the city limits of Gonzales and on what?  How much has been spent on major versus minor drainage projects?

He envisions filing either a Writ of Mandamus or a Petition for Declaratory Judgment but needs the records to make “a justiciable controversy” or a legal issue upon which the courts may exercise authority.  And he wants clarification of the parish’s legal authority for limiting work in municipalities to “major drainage,” a term for which Percy wants the definition.

EA Drainage is funded by a 5-mill property tax and a perpetual 1/2% sales tax, both assessed against Sorrento residents.  The sales tax is dedicated to “…operating gravity and/or forced drainage facilities to drain lands in said Drainage District, including drains, drainage canals, ditches, pumps and pumping plants, dikes, levees, and other related works…as contemplated by the Drainage Plan set forth in the Study and Report, dated March 15, 1982, prepared by Prescott Follett & Associates, Inc…”

Ascension Parish and EA Drainage enter into a Cooperate Endeavor Agreement annually whereby the former agrees to execute the will of the latter.  That will does not include “minor drainage” inside Sorrento or the other municipality on the east bank, the City of Gonzales.  Clean out and maintenance of roadside ditches has been so classified but Debate and Sorrento’s Council want to know why that is so.

Percy described “a handshake agreement” between Gonzales and the parish whereby the municipality maintains roadside ditches with Ascension taking care of all others.  Sorrento, according to multiple speakers on Tuesday, has been roundly ignored by parish officials.

“We can’t get the parish president over here,” according to Councilwoman Patti Poche.


Donald Schexnaydre

“We’re all in trouble if nothing is done,” Councilman Donald Schexnaydre declared.  “Roadside ditch maintenance is only one component of local drainage that has been ignored by Ascension Parish.”

Schexnaydre has not been shy about calling out parish officials for failing to address local drainage, alienating more than a few of them.  He was not backing off on Tuesday.

Councilman Randy Anny claimed that “internal ditches in the town all lead to major drainage” and improvements elsewhere in the parish only worsen Sorrento’s problem.  Development along Hwy 44, west of Sorrento, has caused “water displacement” shoving water faster onto Sorrento where it piles up due to deficient drainage works.

Councilman Randy Anny: “It’s time to put up or shut up.”

Noticeably silent on Tuesday was Mayor Mike Lambert.  Robert Debate chided Sorrento’s chief executive for perceived inaction more than once before summarizing his conclusions.  Debate referenced the following article by way of exposition…

Debate and Cointment weigh in on Sorrento drainage

In other business first-term Councilwoman Randi Sutton informed her colleagues that she is resigning because her family is moving out of state.  According to Louisiana’s Secretary of State:

All letters of resignation and retirement must be an original and must be notarized. The resignation shall become valid upon receipt of the original notarized letter in the Secretary of State’s Office. When an original, notarized letter of resignation is received, the Commissions Division of the Secretary of State’s Office will transmit the notice to the local governing authority who is required by law to make an appointment to fill the vacancy and call a special election to fill the vacancy, if more than one year remains in the term of office.

Louisiana Revised Statute 18:602 reads, in pertinent part:

“…the governing authority of the local governmental subdivision where the vacancy occurs shall within twenty days appoint a person to fill the vacancy who meets the qualifications of the office…If a vacancy is not filled within the time specified, the governor shall fill the vacancy.”