District 2 Councilman insists on public participation in EA Drainage negotiations

District 2 Councilman Joel Robert

To the People of District 2 and Ascension Parish:

When I made the decision to run for Council, I knew it was going to be a difficult job.  From Day One divisions among the council were obvious, and certain of my colleagues were at odds with President Clint Cointment.  It can be a frustrating experience and never more so than East Ascension Drainage’s June 28 meeting.

It appears we may be headed for a repeat of that sorry spectacle.

During the June 28 fiasco my colleague from St. Amant, Councilman Chase Melancon, attempted an inquiry and was ignored.  We do not even know who drafted the proposals considered that evening, only that the Parish Attorney did not do so.  Four separate votes were cast, and four separate documents were approved without ever having been publicly vetted.

In fact, not one word of discussion was allowed about the merits of those documents.

The June 28 EA Drainage agenda:

  1. Resolution to void contract between the East Ascension Drainage District #1 and the Ascension Parish President (Commissioner Corey Orgeron)
  2. Approval to establish the position of CEO of East Ascension Drainage District #1/Contractual Obligations (Commissioner Teri Casso)
  3. Approval of Professional Services Contract between East Ascension Drainage District #1 and William Roux LLC as interim CEO (Commissioner Aaron Lawler)
  4. 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)

EA Drainage Chairman Dempsey Lambert promised, with some whispered prodding from Councilman Aaron Lawler, that all pertinent information would be provided at the next regularly scheduled meeting which took place on July 12.  No such information was made available during that meeting which did not have a quorum anyway (several of us were on pre-planned family vacations).

The entire subterfuge was a disservice to our constituents and the will of the PEOPLE was ignored.  There are, I was informed this week, ongoing negotiations toward a new Intergovernmental Agreement between EA Drainage and Ascension Parish.  I, as District 2’s elected representative, have been excluded from those negotiations by council leadership.

Who is included in council leadership?  I do not even know that, though I have my suspicions.  At least I was provided copies of the council proposal, and a counterproposal from President Cointment a few days ago.  There is a third document, this one from unnamed members of the council entitled; CONSULTING AGREEMENT-WILLIAM ROUX.

I have many more questions than answers and hope that there will be an opportunity to ask them in a public meeting when our constituents can observe.  Given the complexity and importance of these matters there should be non-voting meetings for the public to educate itself.  Having access to the Parish Attorney’s legal expertise is an absolute must.

I will insist that every document up for a vote be presented to the public with ample time for citizens to consider their effects.

As of now I do not even know where to direct the questions I have since first reading the documents four days ago.

  • Who drafted the council’s proposed Intergovernmental Agreement?
  • Can that individual be made available to respond to questions?
  • Which of my colleagues is involved in these negotiations against President Cointment?
  • How many are participating (is it a quorum of the membership in violation of Louisiana Open Meetings Law)?
  • Will President Cointment be allowed the opportunity to make the case for his proposal?
  • Since the new agreements include different, and mutually exclusive, terms than those approved on June 28, must we somehow invalidate the earlier approvals?
  • What is the timeframe for considering the new proposals?
  • Will they be presented and discussed at public meetings prior to the voting meeting?
  • When will the current agreement, supposedly voided by a 6-4 vote on June 28, expire?
  • When will these proposals be made available for public consideration? (I’ll publish them myself if it takes too long).

None of these questions even begin to touch upon the merits of two competing proposals.  It is going to take me more time and study to come up with the right ones.

In 2019 I resolved to always place my constituents’ interests and well-being above all else (if my campaign resulted in election to the Parish Council, District 2). I also promised to consider the wishes of my constituents and include them in the process of governing.

I intend to keep my word,

Joel Robert, District 2-Parish Council