Drainage Director Review Panel set to vet candidates

On Monday East Ascension Drainage Board appointed Lawrence Callendar and Councilman Dempsey Lambert to the panel created to assess candidates for the inaugural Drainage Directorship.  President Clint Cointment named himself and Public Works Director Ron Savoy to the Drainage Director Review Panel. 

The panel was created by the Management Agreement concocted last October to extricate certain EA Drainage commissioners from their failed power grab which had morphed into a political suicide pact.  Monday’s curious proceedings evidence the fact that a handful of the plotters have failed to learn anything from 2021’s miscalculation.

Every bit as ham-fisted  as last year’s debacle, seemingly making the rules up as they went, eight EA Drainage Commissioners (Councilmen Corey Orgeron and Dal Waguespack did not bother to show up) were asked to name their top two candidates out of a five-man slate of nominees.  Waguespack, apparently, nominated himself as did EA Drainage’s chairman, Councilman Chase Melancon and his predecessor, Dempsey Lambert.

Councilman Aaron Lawler, alone among EA Drainage’s membership, nominated individuals outside that membership; the aforementioned Lawrence Callendar and another guy, David Guillory.  Who are they?  No one seemed to know them but Lawler, sort of.

In another soliloquy of subterfuge he dissembled (with our commentary in parentheses):

“Part of the reason I nominated two people is, my goal is that we not bring politics into this.  Everybody sitting up here is eventually going to have the final say on who the Drainage Director is.  (We strongly suspect they already know who it will be).

And just so the public knows the process, cuz I don’t think they know what the process is, we’re getting applications that are coming in.  All of those applications are gonna be whittled down to a reasonable number.  I don’t know what the exact number is…15, 10, 8.  I really don’t, honestly don’t know.

And then, this Review Panel is gonna have two people chosen by this Commission, two people chosen by the administration.  They will be able to talk to these people, read their resumes, learn about them and see what the qualifications are.  (Nine months in and the Commission cannot decide what the Drainage Director’s qualifications will be).  And will nominate one or two or three people.

I think that is correct.

The Parish President will then select, and then submit to us for either approval or disapproval.  If it’s disapproved we go back and he can select somebody else.

The reason I bring all that up is, we are going to have a say in this process.  That’s why, kinda like we talked about double jeopardy (insurance defense lawyers should stick to what they know, and stay away from criminal justice terms).  Hey, we’re already gonna vote on this.

I thought it would be good to have people with experience being directors, with experience seeing high-level functioning departs, um, um, that don’t have a political interest in this.  That’s what I was trying to avoid (after attempting a coup to oust the Parish President in 2021, failing miserably.  No politics in that).

That’s why I went out and looked for people.

I don’t know these people very well.  I’ve only spoken to a couple of them on the phone and one of them in person a couple of times (another demonstration of the haphazard manner which has pervaded this entire disgrace).  But I’ve looked at their resumes.  I’ve talked to people that know them.

These people are beyond reproach (according to the most reproached member in Ascension Council history).  And my goal was to keep politics out of this (doth he protest too much?).

We’re already gonna have a vote.  Adding one of us on here already is basically gonna give that person two votes. And I just thought it would be good to make this a, uh, a less political situation than it maybe has to be (yes, he doth).  That’s why I was hoping that we could keep elected officials off of this panel (in favor of some guys with no discernible interest in Ascension Parish’s well-being who nobody, sans Lawler seems to know at all).

But that’s really up to us in the end.

Good enough for Lawler’s co-conspirators, Councilwoman Teri Casso and Councilman John Cagnolatti whose alliance with Lawler should cost him reelection in 2024.  The trio each went for the Callendar/Guillory ticket.  Inexplicably, Dempsey Lambert cast the fourth and deciding vote for Callendar during the initial round of voting as all other nominees received three votes.

With Callendar in place a second vote was taken with each member choosing one nominee.  Councilman Lambert tallied four votes (his went to Chairman Melancon) against the same trio of votes for David Guillory.

Conspicuous by her absence on Monday, SSA Consultants’ Dr. Christel Slaughter is the point person on the National(?) Search for Ascension’s first Drainage Director.  At the June 13 EA Drainage meeting she had this to offer.

“There are still some things that, I think, are maybe not as clear as they should be in the Management Agreement,” asserted SSA’s Dr. Christel Slaughter.

After chaotic meeting, is EA Drainage doing away with Drainage Director position?

“Or maybe they are clear,”  Dr. Slaughter was covering all the bases, “and we just need to understand that; because the better the candidate, the more interested they are in (knowing the answers to)… am I going to supervise people; how many; who am I reporting to; who hires me; who fires me; am I a contract employee even though I’m reporting to the parish president?”

“When you started this journey it seemed like you wanted someone who was gonna look across all elements of drainage,” Dr. Slaughter, as lost as everyone else, tried to pluck some order out of the chaos by way of reminiscence.  “And be someone who could come to the drainage board; budgets and oversight and coordination and monitoring and that sort of thing.  You don’t have to, necessarily, direct all of those things.  They can.  They don’t have to.”

There is much to be done, decided and enacted before any accurate assessment of candidates for the Drainage Directorship can be accomplished.

This is political theatre of the absurd…a charade, a sham, a farce.  Six commissioners launched a failed coup attempt with one goal in mind; stripping President Clint Cointment of his authority over east bank drainage.

Failing miserably, now they have to extricate themselves from the hole they dug.  How much damage they are willing to do to the proper functioning of East Ascension Drainage operations remains to be seen.