It had been 15 years since a resident of west bank Ascension Parish served on the Planning & Zoning Commission when Donaldsonville’s Dwayne Bailey was appointed to the seven-member panel and sworn in on April 13. His tenure came to an end Thursday when a 5-4 vote of the Parish Council removed Bailey who missed the next four P/Z meetings after that inaugural meeting. His patron, and fellow Donaldsonville resident, Councilman Alvin “Coach” Thomas’ pleas to retain Bailey came up a vote short as two Council members were absent.
Commission bylaws state:
“If a Commission member has three (3) unreasonable absences from regularly scheduled meetings in a calendar year, Legal Counsel shall contact, in writing, the commission member. All absences will be reviewed by the Chairperson, the Director of Planning and Legal Counsel to determine the reasonableness of the absence. After three (3) unreasonable absences, a recommendation to the Parish Council to remove the Commission member will be included in the communication.”
Councilmen Corey Orgeron, a likely ally in Thomas’ quest to save Bailey’s seat, and Joel Robert were not present. Orgeron has claimed to suffer from “long COVID” to alibi numerous absences; Robert took ill earlier this week.
Dwayne Bailey, apparently, was unable to appear on Thursday to plead his cause either. His unexcused Planning & Zoning Commission meeting absences (May 11, June 8, July 13 and August 10) were the product of his out-of-state employment according to Councilman Thomas who read “a statement from Mr. Bailey and myself” into the record. Bailey, using Thomas as a conduit, argued that his absences were not unreasonable and, therefore, not violative of Commission bylaws.
17-years employed at Shell’s Convent plant, Bailey was forced to accept a transfer when the facility closed. He kept it a secret because of worries for his family’s safety should ill-intentioned individuals learn that he was away from home. But he never changed residency.
“It is clear that before the Council is a product of misunderstanding, miscommunication all wrapped up in a warm blanket of politics,” began his letter “The misunderstanding is that I have unreasonable absences concerning Planning and Zoning meetings…true. But I have a hardship that few have gone through. I want you to understand that.”
Admittedly, though, Bailey failed to alert Planning/Zoning Commission Chairman Max Nassar, Planning Director Jerome Fournier and Legal Counsel Spencer Long to his situation. Neither did they contact Bailey to inquire about his truancy. It is not the duty of legal, the Planning Department nor Chairman Nassar to “reach out” to the offending commission member to verify the cause of absence according to Spencer Long who explained that bylaws place that onus on the member.
“They had no idea why I was absent,” Bailey argued via correspondence and Councilman Thomas’ voice to no avail. Speaking for himself, Thomas assured his colleagues that…
“Now, God has blessed (Bailey) to where he’ll be home this weekend for good. He’ll be able to make every meeting from here on out.”
Which, in the view of five council members, did not absolve Dwayne Bailey of his shoddy and unreasonable absenteeism. 20% attendance is not good enough (unlike the Council and/or EA Drainage Board, fortunately for Corey Orgeron).
As to that “warm blanket of politics…It seems quite the rush to take (the lone west bank Ascension member) off the commission…a rush to remove the only minority member.”
“There are no women; there are no Hispanics, no Asians, no Native Americans. And, if Dwayne Bailey is removed, there will be no African Americans will (sic) be seated on the Planning and Zoning Commission.”
Misogyny…Racism…Geographical Bias. Bailey’s and/or Thomas’ inflammatory rhetoric covered a broad spectrum.
Without delving too deeply into the ancestry of 15 P & Z applicants it appears that no women, Asians or Native Americans applied for six open seats. Interestingly enough, Councilman Thomas himself ranked two west bank candidates 13 and 14, the latter being his longtime political nemesis and former Parish Councilman Oliver Joseph. What’s that about “the warm blanket of politics” (and HYPOCRISY)?
How Joseph, 14 years on the Council and credited as the driving force behind a 17,000 acre West Bank Industrial Overlay Zone, was not among the top six candidates selected for the commission is a mystery.
Council Chairman John Cagnolatti and Councilwoman Teri Casso both ranked Oliver Joseph outside the top six after the Personnel Committee interviewed candidates in March. Maybe they know something we don’t. This time around Cagnolatti and Casso were joined by Councilmen Aaron Lawler, Chase Melancon and Michael Mason to remove Dwayne Bailey from the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“You can feel free to apply again,” Casso can be heard whispering to Cagnolatti over a hot microphone.