Without a quorum Monday night, East Ascension Drainage District had to allow the people their say, and it was another raucous, testy 90 minutes for five council members to endure. They came for answers withheld on June 28 when a 6-4 vote was cast to strip Parish President Clint Cointment of his authority over East Ascension drainage. Chairman Dempsey Lambert had told them those answers would be provided on Monday; he lied.
Lambert never had any intention of fulfilling his promise. He panicked on June 28 and, desperate to quell the public furor, took his cue from Councilman Aaron Lawler. From that meeting:
Councilman Chase Melancon: How do we have nobody here to answer a question? I mean, somebody drafted the document. It’s a legal document, right?
Councilman Lawler (whispering to Lambert): You can give answers at the first drainage meeting…it’s the standard response…
Chairman Lambert: It’ll be the first meeting in…July 12.
July 12 came and went without those answers; and without five members of EA Drainage District present. Lambert and Lawler never had any intention to provide answers on Monday. All they came prepared with was more obfuscation, desperate to avoid the heat from a citizenry that is “fed up and not going to take it anymore.”
Councilman Dal Waguespack, succumbing to public pressure and a guilty conscience, meekly offered:
“I hear your concerns. As we move forward I’m going to ask my fellow drainage members to bring back all four items…to the next agenda so that we have a discussion.”
The four items in question…
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)
were all approved with Waguespack’s vote. Why didn’t Waguespack, normally well-armed with pedantic questions, institute a discussion on June 28? Unless he undoes what he did with five other members (Aaron Lawler, Dempsey Lambert, Teri Casso, John Cagnolatti and Corey Orgeron) he might want to consider saving his breath.
Waguespack mentioned a Sunday night meeting brokered by the Chamber of Commerce “to facilitate…some type of compromise.” If those four June 28 votes are not undone there seems no compromise to be had. While President Clint Cointment adopted a conciliatory tone on Monday, talk is worthless at this point.
“No, we did not reach a compromise…but we will keep meeting,” offered the parish president who admitted to being too “prideful and passionate…There’s a lot of personalities that are clashing, no doubt about that.”
Translation-it was a waste of time and effort.
Aaron Lawler and John Cagnolatti pleaded for patience on Monday, which did nothing at all to appease the citizenry in attendance. Cagnolatti’s wavering, after saying nothing on June 28 (aside from his four votes), did not sit well the frustrated residents in attendance.
“With the Chamber’s assistance we’re going to work these issues out,” he said. “But it’s going to take time.”
Five-and-a-half years on the council, time may already have run out on Cagnolatti.
Two weeks after overplaying his hand, Lawler seemed to fold.
“I assure you that I…and a lot of other people on the council, are listening. We do hear you,’ claimed the District 7 councilman. “That is why, immediately after the accident (a Freudian slip since he meant to reference the June 28 fiasco of his own making)…that’s why we thought, hey, let’s see if we can reach a compromise with the Parish President.
That’s why we reached out and started working with him.”
Lawler went on to offer a unique characterization of those June 28 votes:
“The Parish President has not been relieved of his duties,” he said. “The vote was to give ourselves authority do do it. You can’t write a letter removing somebody without having full approval of the East Ascension Drainage district; so that’s what the vote was.”
What was the vote to hire William Roux, LLC as interim CEO with an ongoing $50,000 annual consulting fee thereafter? While it had no effect…
that is due to Lawler’s incompetence (isn’t it safe to assume he drafted those four documents voted upon on June 28?).
Monday’s curious proceeding did nothing to break the recall fever against him and five others.