On Monday two 6-4 votes were cast by East Ascension Drainage District. The first voided a 12-year old Intergovernmental Agreement, stripping President Clint Cointment’s powers over the District; the second vote hired William Roux, LLC as interim CEO with a $140,000 salary, and a $50,000 annual consulting fee once a permanent CEO is hired; or maybe it did not? The Drainage District’s hiring of Roux’s firm violated the terms of its operating agreement.
The vote to void the existing agreement occurred 54 minutes before the vote to hire Roux’s firm. But the agreement contains the provision:
“This agreement will be in effect from the date of execution and shall renew automatically each year. Either party may also terminate this agreement by giving the other party 60 days written notice.”
Thus, we contend, the agreement remains in place until 60 days have elapsed from the vote, or maybe the clock starts running from the approval of the official meeting minutes. The notice must be “written” and received 60 days prior to the agreement being voided. President Cointment remains as Director of Drainage until these conditions are satisfied.
The agreement, executed on February 25, 2009 grants “the office of the Parish President…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.”
“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.”
The Drainage District has no authority to hire anyone, not until the current agreement’s provisions lapse, anyway. Additionally, according to an April 19, 2011 amendment to the agreement:
“All Obligations, Terms, and Governing Law of the original contract dated on February 25, 2009, remain in effect, except the following changes;
EACGDD does hereby agree to follow all Parish ordinances (Sec. 2-81 and Sec. 2-82) in regard to procedures for entering into any new or renewal contracts for Professional Services.”
Section 2-82 established a “professional services selection committee” comprised of:
- Chief executive assistant or the parish president’s designee
- Chief financial officer, or his/her designee
- Public works director or drainage director; or chief executive assistant whose departments may be impacted by the selection process
- Impacted department head
- An expert in the subject matter area; for which the services are sought; this person may be an employee of the parish
Paragraph C is entitled Qualification for review.
“Any contract for professional services or consultant work…which would result in a fee in the amount of $50,000, shall be awarded based on the recommendation of the professional services committee.”
Even as Councilman Aaron Lawler claimed to have worked on the scheme for three-and-a-half years, no selection committee was convened to recommend Roux’s firm. The firm did not even exist until June 24, incorporation papers submitted right about the time Lawler and Chairwoman Teri Casso were being interviewed to explain the move. At least three Drainage Commissioners claimed to have no knowledge of the effort until those interviews.
Roux, who was inexplicably absent from Monday’s meeting, subsequently addressed President Cointment’s drainage ideas implemented over the last 18 months. He told a Baton Rouge TV station:
“We have to vet some of this stuff through engineering but once we get it, and some of it might fit into the plan.”
It is the sort of thing a Professional Services Selection Committee may have been interested in vetting. With three attorney’s sitting on the Drainage District, having worked on the deal for three-and-a-half years, how was the requirement missed? Was it simply ignored?