On Monday, after four months a wrangling East Ascension Drainage Board approved a deal whereby the Parish President will continue to oversee drainage works. The newly-adopted MANAGEMENT AGREEMENT (an Addendum to the Existing Contract) requires the hiring of a Drainage Director and a “liaison” but, for the most part, formalizes rudimentary tasks and obligations already owed by the president. Hastily-confected and excluding a majority of EA Drainage’s membership in the process, the panel agreed to consider 11th hour amendments proposed by Vice Chair Chase Melancon at a later date.
In keeping with the Board’s standard operating procedure, none of the Melancon amendments have been made public. None of the elected officials involved looks all that good, though some came off much worse than others. (Travis Turner was absent and Alvin “Coach” Thomas is not a member of EA Drainage).
What started as a power play, pure and simple, devolved into Theater of the Absurd. Six members coalesced on June 28 to oust President Clint Cointment from his position over drainage (and control over Ascension’s deepest pool of taxpayer money). It was pitifully planned and the execution was much worse.
Infuriating a significant segment of the citizenry they nominally represent, six votes to void the existing Intergovernmental Agreement from 2009 were inoperative without providing 60-days written notice. Negotiations commenced, stalled and began again through September when headway appeared to have been made. And then…
inexplicably, Chairman Dempsey Lambert sent the Termination Letter catching a majority of his colleagues completely off-guard. It was a bridge too far and EA Drainage’s membership fell in line to put the best face on an ugly situation, slathering lipstick all over this pig along with President Cointment whose over-conciliatory press conference on September 29 pretended that all is well.
And they all toed the party line on Monday, except for Councilman Joel Robert who refused to “be a part of this dog-and-pony show.”
“Wholly unnecessary and the Board could have accomplished everything in this agreement, even those that I find objectionable, by separate votes,” Robert explained. “We could have created the Drainage Director position and taken up every other issue without amendment to the existing agreement. This was nothing more than a way to climb out of the hole which my colleagues dug for themselves and I will not participate in the subterfuge perpetrated on the people of Ascension Parish.”
Robert was never included in the process, neither prior to June 28’s Special Meeting to oust Cointment nor the subsequent negotiations “to undo what they did. The people don’t want this,” he added. Robert’s commentary, specifically his favorably comparing President Cointment’s tenure to that of former drainage headman Bill Roux, drew a sharp rebuke from Chairman Lambert prior to the vote, fire returned by the District 2 Councilman.
“The People” packed the room on June 28 and, while only a handful came on Monday, their public comments cut certain of EA Drainage’s membership to the quick. Councilman Corey Orgeron had had enough by the time they considered approving a separate contract to hire Bill Roux as a liaison, and a shouting match between Orgeron and the residents present ensued.
(Check out the video on Pelican Post’s Facebook page).
When Councilman Robert told his District 4 colleague to “shut up” Orgeron turned his aggression toward Robert. Chairman Lambert called a “recess” and a law enforcement officer appeared to escort Orgeron out of the council chamber. Once resumed the Board deferred the Roux liaison contract until November 8.
The four votes taken on June 28 were all reversed by unanimous votes on Monday, along with the cancellation of Lambert’s September 23 termination letter.