On June 17 six east bank members of Ascension’s Parish Council, joined by Donaldsonville’s Councilman Alvin “Coach” Thomas, infuriated residents who begged that President Cointment’s 12-month moratorium on subdivision of property be enacted. These council members ignored the clearly expressed will of their constituents, and did so again on June 28 at a Special Meeting of East Ascension Drainage District. Sitting as EA Drainage Commissioners, Chairwoman Teri Casso and five Councilmen (Aaron Lawler, Corey Orgeron, Dempsey Lambert, Dal Waguespack and John Cagnolatti) voted to strip Parish President Clint Cointment of his role as Drainage Director.
Out of 87 public opinion cards 83 were red, indicating a preference that President Cointment retain that leadership role (and one of the individuals submitting a green card publicly apologized for making a mistake). Six members of the Parish Council ignored the PEOPLE, even after 33 impassioned residents spoke clearly…and very loudly. The council sextet have been targeted for recall based on this blatant disregard for what you think.
District 7’s Lawler was the architect of this fiasco, a power grab pure and simple. The timing could not have been worse as President Cointment had begun the dredging of New River after various administrations and councils drug their heels for decades. Ousting Cointment to make room for former Drainage head Bill Roux is a slap in the face of every east bank resident.
Roux had his chance to improve drainage, 18 years on the job and got little accomplished. When Roux retired in early 2018 there were exactly ZERO permitted projects compared to 16 permits in place now. Lawler knows that the job is too big for Bill Roux, he simply does not care because his animosity for President Cointment dictates his actions.
On July 20, 2017 it was Aaron Lawler who voted against Bill Roux’s appointment as Director of Public Works/Drainage.
Knowing that Roux is not up to the job, Lawler is perfectly willing to compromise the welfare of Ascension’s residents to further his petty political agenda. None of which should come as a surprise given Aaron Lawler’s track record. Since first taking office in January 2016 his behavior has been childish, petulant, vindictive and, worst of all, DISHONEST.
Lawler’s 2015 campaign platform included a “Temporary Moratorium on New Subdivisions” but his actions betrayed his true agenda (see below). In his 2019 campaign Lawler lambasted opponents for opposing “increased density” as envisioned in the new Master Land Use Plan adopted by the Planning Commissioners he and Casso, along with Dempsey Lambert and John Cagnolatti, continue to reappoint.
He has, though, taken care of his developer pals and Teri Casso who, as it happens, appointed Lawler to chair the important Transportation Committee. Consider:
Oak Grove Townhomes was initially rejected in a rare preliminary plat denial by the Planning Commission. Appealed to the council it was Lawler, citing the “tenuous argument” that the developer had been denied a non-existent right to rebuttal, who made the motion to refer the plat back to Planning. Planning’s “reconsideration” saw a 4-2 Denial change to a 4-3 Approval after Lawler negotiated an agreement whereby Dantin Bruce Development would escrow $100,000 toward some ill-defined drainage improvement.
If you happen to reside in Willow Lakes Subdivision you know very well the harm done by Aaron Lawler and his cronies.
Jamestown Crossing (another Dantin Bruce development) is a subdivision which should never have been approved. It wouldn’t have been if Transportation Chairman Lawler had not delayed implementation of new Traffic Impact Study policy until May 17, 2018 when Urban Systems, Inc. had finalized the new policy in April of 2016. Had the new policy been in place Jamestown Crossing could not have been approved on May 9, 2018 (eight days prior to implementation of the new policy).
By his own admission Lawler received Urban Systems’ “worthless document” in the “spring or summer of 2017.” It was virtually identical to the one resulting in stricter Traffic Impact Study policy enacted by the Council on May 17, 2018. At least six subdivisions would be approved from the time of Lawler’s receipt of the document until enactment of its recommendations.
The last being Jamestown Crossing, a subdivision being built on land sold to Dantin Bruce Development by Teri Casso and her family for $4,256,062.50.
It was not the first time Chairwoman Casso reaped a financial windfall after Council involvement in a land deal.
Lawler and Casso, joined at the hip, do all they can to foster subdivision development. They continue to reappoint pro-development Planning Commissioners (especially Matthew Pryor and Julio Dumas) while removing those who cast votes to deny.
Antebellum Pointe was another denied subdivision appealed to the council. Realizing the necessary votes were lacking, Lawler sided with the Planning Commission’s denial when it came time to vote on July 27, 2020. But Lawler flipped his vote on April 15, joining a threadbare six-vote majority which approved the subdivision in settlement of a lawsuit.
It was all part of a plan concocted between a council majority and the property owners. President Cointment would derail the plan with a veto. Maybe that explains why Aaron Lawler has made harming President Cointment’s administration his life’s mission.
Raw power…and control of tax dollars is the more likely reason.
Stripping Cointment of his EA Drainage District duties was not the first power grab by Casso and Lawler. In 2017-18 they attempted to abolish the parish presidency itself. That’s when a group called A Better Ascension attempted to install a council-appointed Parish Manager instead of an elected Parish President.
Both council members appointed themselves to sit on a sham Home Rule Charter Revision Committee, a subterfuge supposed to update Ascension’s quarter-century old charter. In reality it was a end run around the charter’s amendment methodology solely intended to place ABA’s parish manager agenda on the ballot without much vetting at all.
Maybe most dangerous of all, Casso and Lawler tried to ramrod a potentially devastating deal with Bernhard Capital Partners to take over east bank sewer treatment in 2019. On May 16 of that year they pushed an agreement that prohibited negotiations with any other entity, hamstringing the incoming administration for two years. The 2019 agreement they wanted could not have been more disadvantageous to Ascension Parish.
It would have cost taxpayers $75.8 million in upfront money with terms so onerous that it was a parish bankruptcy waiting to happen. Fortunately, they waited until after the October 12 election date to put the plan to a vote (because it would have hurt their reelection chances). By the end of 2019 Parish President-Elect Clint Cointment stepped in to kill that disaster of a deal.
And now Aaron Lawler and Teri Casso want to strip President Cointment’s authority so that they can get back to business as usual. Groups of citizens have sprung up to stop them, planning to file recall petitions as early as this month.