Seemed like old times at Sorrento’s Special Meeting

Mayor Mike Lambert [l] and Councilman Donald Schexnaydre went at in Round 1

Sorrento’s Town Council called a Special Meeting for Thursday morning, with two seemingly innocuous items to discuss.  Seeking bids for grass cutting was dispensed with in a matter of moments, but “Discussion on Insurance Ordinance” lit the fuse which touched off a series of fireworks display not seen in Sorrento since the meetings to eliminate the town’s police department and Chief Earl Theriot in 2014-15.  Mayor Mike Lambert and Councilman Donald Schexnaydre went at it over disparate treatment of employees, some of whom are reimbursed private insurance premiums while others are not.

“What I’m trying to get to is equality,” Schexnaydre began.  “All employees should be treated the same.”

Sorrento employees watched in bewilderment

Lambert recently hired two full-time employees without offering health insurance benefits of any kind, while two others are reimbursed for insurance secured through private companies.  Councilwoman Patti Poche proposed repeal of an ordinance dealing with town health insurance which has not been provided in…well, no one could say.

Ordinance 46-12 provides for reimbursement of privately-secured insurance premiums, “if an employee opts out of the town insurance” but no insurance has been offered to employees for an indeterminate number of years.  A vigorous debate of the ordinance’s meaning yielded little in the way of resolution though it made for compelling drama.  No one could make heads or tails of the ordinance, Town Attorney Matthew Percy opining it could all be moot since no insurance is offered…to anyone.

The confusing ordinance begins…

The town recognizes that employees can sometimes obtain health insurance through another source, such as through a spouse’s employer, at a cost less than what the town pays for such insurance. In such cases, it results in a savings to the town, without causing any loss or diminution in coverage to the employee, for the town to reimburse the employee of such cost rather than for the town to carry the employee on the town insurance policy.

Councilman Robert Debate called it “a combination of Greek and hieroglyphics” leading Councilwoman Patti Poche to conclude, “It’s ridiculously written, and it needs to be repealed.” That was the motion she made but not before a second skirmish between the mayor and Councilman Schexnaydre ensued.  The acrimony between the combatants is long-standing, in large part because of Schexnaydre’s robust criticism of Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa’s administration.

Mayor Lambert is a Matassa-man to the core…

Sorrento is threatening a lawsuit against the go-to-guy to get the towns ditches cleaned.

transitioning to Murphy Painter (even though Mayor Lambert’s adulation of Painter’s arch-nemesis, former Sheriff Jeff Wiley, is well-known), the candidate Matassa’s people are all behind since the current president has no chance of reelection.

Mike Lambert yard sign

Schexnaydre is committed to Clint Cointment in the October 12 election.

Donald Schexnaydre yard signs

It’s important given the cash-strapped town’s reliance on parish government for services.

One things calmed it was Poche versus Lambert, with the former warning of a harassment complaint against the mayor if continued interruptions prevented her from introducing an ordinance to repeal the Insurance Reimbursement ordinance.

Councilwoman Patti Poche

Sitting uncharacteristically quietly until then, Councilman Randy Anny’s eventual participation only made things worse.  Miffed at being excluded from pre-meeting discussions even though he sits on the insurance committee, Anny’s attempts to defer the meeting were met by Poche’s insistent determination.  There was nothing for the committee to do since all Poche sought “was to repeal the ordinance.”

“The outdated ordinance results in treating some of our employees unfairly.  Once it’s repealed we can consider drafting another one, but first we have to decide how we’re going to treat all of our employees,” Poche said.