True to form, Donaldsonville’s Councilman Alvin “Coach” Thomas’ latest diatribe included a thinly-veiled, none too subtle accusation of racism against Parish President Clint Cointment. It was December 17 during the most recent meeting of Ascension’s Council. Egged on, we suspect, by Councilman Corey Orgeron of Prairieville whose brief tenure includes a number of instances playing the race card, Thomas’ unrestrained rantings worked to the obvious discomfiture of Chairwoman Teri Casso and eight other members (none of whom challenged their west bank colleague’s sordid allegation).
Thomas was responding to the President’s Report which addressed a west bank water billing issue. A COVID-19 outbreak forced seven employees to quarantine, resulting in west bank water meters going unread and bills for November not going out. The parish recommended that customers pay the October rate to avoid receiving two months’ (November and December) worth of bills in January.
Council Thomas, enraged that President Cointment had not contacted him individually when Councilman Joel Robert had been, deemed the plan unacceptable “double-billing” in a minutes long address culminating in the racism accusation. Thomas was reading from a prepared script during the videoconference meeting, fueling speculation among meeting participants that Orgeron had written it for him. It is not uncommon for Orgeron to allege racism in parish governance in written form (there have been multiple social media posts and intra-council emails).
“Mr. President,” thundered Thomas, “I want you to hear me clearly and precisely…You thought, in your mind, that it was important enough to call and discuss PUA with Mr. Robert. Yet, you didn’t call me to talk about any of it. Yet, you fail again to show me that courtesy (inaudible) spirit of cooperation and professionalism in our relationship as a parish elected official.”
“Mr. President,” he thundered again, “what is the difference that you see through your eyes between me an Joel? What do you see that would lead you to communicate with one councilman and not communicate with the other councilman representing the same people?”
Cointment would not take the bait, but we will.
- One of those councilmen persists in bi-monthly verbal assaults against the administration.
- One of those councilmen schemes with Corey Orgeron (there were others until a recent detente) in attempting to derail Cointment’s presidency.
- One of those councilmen incessantly attempts to direct activities of west bank parish employees.
- One of those councilmen continually tries to land parish jobs for his political cronies.
- One of those councilmen was sentenced to 21 months in prison (2006) after confessing to acceptance of a bribe, giving the briber “a crash course in politics” during his first tenure on the council.
- One of those councilmen happens to be black.
Councilman Thomas was not finished.
“Even after you’ve received written notice from me, I’ve give it to you; the cooperation, the communication with you Mr. President, you choose to withhold information and professionalism. Mr. President,” Thomas raised the decibel level even higher, eliciting a chuckle from Cointment and other council members and frustrating the speaker even more…”(It is) a slap in the face at this council and the people of this parish. You can do better. We expect you to do better.”
Outwardly unperturbed, Cointment would explain that he had returned from vacation that very day, facetiously apologizing to each council member who he had not contacted. Orgeron, adopting the persona a good cop to Thomas’ bad, made nice with President Cointment, inquiring about his vacation and wishing a premature (or maybe belated) “Happy Birthday” to the president’s bewilderment.
Make no mistake, Orgeron and Thomas were in on this shameful display together. Chairwoman Teri Casso, to Orgeron’s obvious delight, could not restrain the Donaldsonville member without a gavel to bang down during the videoconference. Feeble admonishment was simply ignored.
How long will Casso and the rest of this council tolerate the behavior of Thomas and Orgeron? Councilman Joel Robert was censured, arguably, for less (leaving an expletive filled voice mail for an employee).