Another Big-O no-show, Lawler’s turn to embarrass Parish Council

District 7 Councilman Aaron Lawler

How dysfunctional is Ascension’s Parish Council?  Seven of its membership, sitting Ex Officio as East Ascension Drainage District on Monday, could not even adopt the meeting minutes from the previous meeting on May 9.  The bulk of the blame can be laid at the doorstep of one member, the resident pot-stirrer (since Corey Orgeron went into hiding) who simply could not control his animus for President Clint Cointment, Councilman Aaron Lawler went off the rails as six colleagues silently watched another embarrassing episode unfold.

Lawler, arguing that the draft minutes did not “accurately reflect” a motion that was voted upon last month, moved to amend them.  The draft minutes in Monday’s EA Drainage meeting packet included.

Item-Resolution asking East Bank municipalities to refuse annexation of any property that will be developed at drainage standards lower than the standards accepted by Ascension Parish? (Vice-Chairman Aaron Lawler, Commissioners Terri Casso, John Cagnolotti, Corey Orgeron).

Commissioner Dal Waguespack made a motion to defer until the next meeting. Parish President Cointment suggested meeting with other municipalities to exchange standards to compare along with other information and have a discussion to come to an agreement. The resolution should state what they have agreed upon before being presented to the Council. Commissioner Travis Turner seconded the motion to defer. No Objections. Motion Passed.

Lawler conceded the motion was “to defer” while insisting that it went further, “to have the administration work with those municipalities and come to us with information on that to work with them.”

President Cointment, who claimed to have reviewed the meeting video, interpreted the motion in keeping with the draft minutes.  He did, though, offer to comply with Lawler’s wishes “if the board votes to do it.”

“We already voted on it,” Lawler insisted.

What, exactly, did they vote on last month.  Councilman Waguespack said:

“I’d like to make a substitute motion to defer this to the next meeting; and request that we, maybe, have some analysis done on the codes or the wetlands and present that.”

It was approved without discussion.

What action, if any, did it direct the Cointment administration to undertake?  The deferred resolution, supposed to be taken up on Monday, did not make it onto the agenda which seemed to have escaped Lawler’s attention (nobody else mentioned the fact either).

Cointment explained that he had discussed the pending resolution, and a corresponding threat to withhold drainage improvements inside the municipal limits of Gonzales and Sorrento included on May 9, with those municipalities’ mayors.  Both “indicated that they don’t see the need for any further action,” according to Cointment who sought to avert a “heightened conflict.”

“It’s a tense situation when you start withholding work from taxpayers who pay the same drainage tax, just like every other Ascension Parish resident.  Holding a stick over other elected officials who’ve been elected by the public; to tell them what they can and cannot do or you’re gonna withhold drainage work, I think that’s a dangerous precedent,” the president opined.

NOTE:  The May 9 resolution was accompanied by:

Discussion of requiring all municipalities on the East bank to have development drainage standards that are at least equal to Parish standards under possibility of cessation of drainage work in municipalities that do not have such standard.

Sorrento mayor exposes Lawler, Casso, Orgeron and Cagnolatti petulance

Assuring that Mayors Barney Arceneaux (Gonzales) and Chris Guidry (Sorrento) “understand parish regs and will make decisions accordingly,” Cointment reiterated that he would perform any action tasked by a vote of the District.  But…

“If the Board feels like it needs to continue down this road, I’d like to hear from members who represent those people in (Gonzales and Sorrento),” Cointment advised.

Sorrento citizens reside in Joel Robert’s District 2.  Councilman Robert confirmed his opposition to the resolution on Tuesday.

Gonzales residents are represented by Travis Turner (District 3) and John Cagnolatti (District 10).

Lawler’s District 7 encompasses an unincorporated area in Prairieville, but he demanded that Cointment take action in the municipalities.

“You’re simple being obstinate on this,” the councilman chastised the parish president.  “The video is very clear, regardless of how you may have interpreted it, the words are the words.”

Even Dal Waguespack could not say with any certainty if his May 9 motion (repeated below) directed Cointment to do anything…

“I’d like to make a substitute motion to defer this to the next meeting; and request that we, maybe, have some analysis done on the codes or the wetlands and present that.”

which did not stop Lawler from resumption of his executive dressing down.

“You were directed to do something.  You need to get it done,” Lawler barked at Cointment.

He went on to argue that, pursuant to the October 18, 2021 Management Agreement between EA Drainage and Ascension Parish, Cointment is an employee of the Drainage District.  When Lawler ordered President Cointment “to follow directives of the EADC” on May 12, he expected action.

“On May 31 I asked for a response to that; didn’t get a response until that afternoon,” Lawler whined.

Another request for response on June 9 went unanswered, disturbing him to the point of severe agitation since Paragraph C-5 of the Management Agreement:

“Provides substantive answers to Commissioners’ questions and concerns submitted before the Drainage Board meetings or asked during those meetings unless answers are unavailable at that time. Under such circumstances substantive answers shall be provided as soon as available, but if information is unavailable within three days, the Commissioners will be notified and will be informed as to when the information will be delivered or why it cannot be put forward.”

Note the plural emphasized in bold text above.  No matter how he rants and raves, Lawler is a single commissioner.  None of his colleagues, particularly Chairman Chase Melancon, joined the tirade but did nothing to prevent it.

Another Dal Waguespack substitute motion put an end to the antics, this one to defer approval of the May 9 minutes to July’s meeting which will afford the opportunity to review Waguespack’s motion.

All of this over usually pro forma approval of meeting minutes…disgraceful.