87 public preference cards were filled out at Monday’s Special Meeting of East Ascension Drainage Commission to decide whether or not to eliminate President Clint Cointment from directing drainage operations. 83 of them were RED, indicative of overwhelming opposition to the Commission’s plan, hatched in secret by Councilman Aaron Lawler and a handful of others, with 33 emotional speakers in Cointment’s corner. And six commissioners ignored the clearly expressed will of the PEOPLE.
That comes to 95.4% of the citizenry solidly behind their parish president, an impressive number which did little to sway a majority of the commission which had made its mind up well beforehand. Four actionable items appeared on the agenda, and four votes would be cast. The agenda:
a. Resolution to void contract between the East Ascension Drainage District #1 and the Ascension Parish President (Commissioner Corey Orgeron)
b. Approval to establish the position of CEO of East Ascension Drainage District #1/Contractual Obligations (Commissioner Teri Casso)
c. Approval of Professional Services Contract between East Ascension Drainage District #1 and William Roux LLC as interim CEO (Commissioner Aaron Lawler)
d. Intergovernmental agreement with the Parish to continue admin functions as part of the 4% annual fee with additional conditions as to the separation of personnel and assets (Commissioner Teri Casso)
Item (a) would be approved by a 6-4 vote (see majority above), but only after 33 passionate citizens took there turns at the podium in opposition. There was a single voice in support, homebuilder Roy Domangue which did little to quell the raucous crowd. Heaping praise on President Cointment’s efforts to improve east bank drainage during his first 18 months in office, they were ignored by Council members Corey Orgeron, Dempsey Lambert, Aaron Lawler, Teri Casso, Dal Waguespack, and John Cagnolatti.
Waguespack teared up while attempting to rationalize his vote, garnering no sympathy at all. Overcome by emotion or not, he still defied the will of his constituents.
“We the People stand by President Cointment,” offered one speaker in a comment typical of several others.
“We have no problem with hiring an expert,” another conceded. “But not at the exclusion of the parish president.”
“Clint Cointment is the man for the job. If he needs help he’ll ask Bill Roux but Bill Roux wouldn’t be much help compared to what Clint knows,” said someone else.
Item (b) was approved with a 7-3 vote when Councilman Travis Turner joined the majority. Turner switched back when it came time to vote on Item (c), the hiring of former DPW Director Bill Roux on an interim basis by the same 6-4 vote above. Roux, who filed incorporation papers on June 24, will receive the CEO’s full $140,000 salary during the interim period with an annual $50,000 consulting contract once the permanent CEO is hired.
Inexplicably, Roux was a no-show on Monday. Which did not stop multiple speakers from severely criticizing his 18 years on the parish payroll.
It was nothing compared to the verbal lambasting of the council members in the majority. A sampling:
“You all are garbage.”
“I do not have any faith in all of you to represent the people of this parish.”
“Corruption. Dirty politics. If you vote for this you should resign,” declared one speaker who would quote the Peter Finch character in Network; “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
“This was a travesty.”
Much of the frustration was due to the surreptitious manner in which the Special Meeting was called. At least three council members had no idea it was happening until Lawler and Casso appeared on a Baton Rouge TV channel on Thursday, June 24 (the same day Roux filed his incorporation paperwork creating William Roux, LLC).
Separating drainage works, manpower and equipment, from parish DPW will have to occur in a 60-day period before Roux assumes his interim position according to the architect of this fiasco, Councilman Aaron Lawler. None of it was ever discussed, not openly anyway. Which members were privy to the machinations; which were excluded…who knows?
President Cointment, noting that Hurricane Season is upon us, called it “scary, having to sort out so many details without any direction or planning.” And not a word of discussion about the plan’s merits or pitfalls.