Six East Ascension Drainage District commissioners voted to approve an error-riddled, hastily-concocted resolution to void the 12-year old agreement with the Ascension Parish Council last week. It was the same six members who voted to bring back Bill Roux, who headed up EA Drainage from 2000-2017 in his, to put it kindly, mediocre tenure. Two other documents (creating a Drainage CEO with employment contract and a new operating agreement) were approved by 7-3 votes but none of them are anywhere near final execution.
The first item taken up by the District on June 28 was the resolution voiding the current Intergovernmental Agreement which vests authority over drainage in the parish president. Termination can only be accomplished “by giving the other party 60 days written notice.” The “other party” in this instance is “The ASCENSION PARISH COUNCIL” which, while ten of its membership are Ex Officio members of the District, is a separate and distinct governmental entity.
While the 6-4 vote can in no way be considered “written notice” starting the 60-day countdown to void the agreement, the Council could vote to waive the contractual requirement. Do they want a replay of June 28 as six of them have been targeted for recall?
No matter since the agreement was in place when purported interim CEO Bill Roux’s deal received six votes…
Pursuant to the agreement Parish President Clint Cointment has “the exclusive right to administer the maintenance of, operation of, repair of, and provision for drainage for the Parish of Ascension and any and all appurtenances pertaining thereto.” Additionally:
“EACGDD does hereby agree that the Drainage Manager will be nominated for appointment by the Parish President to the East Ascension Drainage Board, and that once ratified, the Drainage Manager shall be appointed by the Parish President and report to the Chief Administrative Officer.”
If/when the 2009 agreement is terminated, what then?
A 7-3 vote accepted a newly-proposed agreement on behalf East Ascension Drainage District, this one purporting to establish contractual commitments with THE PARISH OF ASCENSION, which has yet to sign off on the deal. That will require a vote of the governing authority, i.e. the Parish Council, that is subject to a veto should President Cointment decide to exercise it (or Cointment could simply refuse to execute the contract). Are there eight votes within the council’s 11-membership (Donaldsonville Councilman Alvin “Coach” Thomas gets to vote too) to override a veto?
How many of these public outrage-inducing votes is this council willing to endure?
The final document, CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS-CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER , is supposedly predicated upon EA Drainage District’s purported belief that a CEO will “enhance stability and continuity within the drainage district, which the Board believe (sic) will improve the quality and productivity of drainage activities…(and)…serve as the basis of effective communication and transparency between the District, CEO and the Public.”
Irony of ironies, voting on four items drafted in secret without a syllable of public discussion (three of the District’s membership admitted to total ignorance), and the Public is supposed to believe the District desires “communication and transparency.” Included in the document is the provision:
“At least once each fiscal year, EACGDD Board and CEO shall meet in closed executive session for the purpose of mutual evaluation of the performance of EACGDD Board and CEO.”
“Stability and continuity” is a tougher sell when, “The term of this contract shall be for two years with extensions in one-year increments if agreed to by both parties…The Board may, at its option, and by a minimum ninety (90) days notice to the CEO, unilaterally terminate his contract.” Seems more like a council power grab than anything else and, if it seems familiar…
It is no coincidence that Chairwoman Teri Casso and Councilman Aaron Lawler, two ardent supporters of A Better Ascension’s attempt to abolish the parish presidency in 2017-18, are behind this subterfuge. There are striking similarities in the proposed CEO contract and A Better Ascension’s proposed revision of the Parish Home Rule Charter.
New to the council are two members suspected of close ties to ABA and its money men, Corey Orgeron and Dal Waguespack. Councilman Dempsey Lambert angered ABA’s membership by failing to show up for the July 19, 2018 vote which rejected the group’s dream of parish manager governance. Councilman John Cagnolatti, like Lambert, was vilified in ABA circles for the perceived betrayal.
Is it mere coincidence that these six members comprise the votes to oust President Cointment from EA Drainage?
Prior to A Better Ascension’s incorporation in February of 2017 the council chair was already claiming to have wrangled a sufficient number of colleagues to “get ABA on the ballot.” It was a miscalculation since it takes eight votes to place any charter amendment before the voters (instead of a six-vote simple majority).
Over the course of 18 months, and multiple attempts to legitimize the end run around the Home Rule Charter, the seventh and/or eighth vote failed to materialize and political expediency resulted in all but Casso, Lawler, and former councilman Bill Dawson backing ABA’s doomed effort.
How will this latest coup attempt play out? Is this the council with enough disdain for its constituency’s wishes to pull it off?