Joel Robert gets Term Limits out of committee and onto full council’s plate

Strategic Planning Chairman Joel Robert

Half the battle is just showing up…variously attributed to theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and oddball filmmaker Woody Allen, a strange coupling if ever there was.  Another curious cast of characters, three in number, finally showed up to consider Councilman Joel Robert’s Strategic Planning agenda on Tuesday.  Thrice unable to achieve a quorum, Michael Mason and Corey Orgeron joined the mercurial chairman to forward the issue of term limits for consideration by Ascension’s full council.

NOTE:  Two members of Strategic Planning were absent, Alvin “Coach” Thomas and Teri Casso.  Casso, curiously, did attend the Transportation Committee meeting which followed immediately after Strategic Planning on Tuesday.

Councilman Robert proposed language for amending Ascension’s Home Rule Charter, which would necessitate an affirmative vote of Ascension Parish’s electorate.  He lifted the following verbiage from the 2018 Home Rule Charter Revision Committee’s proposal that was rejected by the Council on July 19, 2018.  Never presented to Ascension voting public, Paragraph (B) could have been added to Article 4-23; Term of Office in the Charter:

“(B) A person who has been elected to serve as a member of the governing authority for three consecutive full terms of office, such service beginning after (January 1 of year after Charter amendment adopted by voters), shall not be eligible for election to the governing authority for the succeeding term.”

Robert noted that the parish presidency was not included in the Charter Revision Committee’s version, because it would have abolished the office in favor of a Parish Manager hired by the council.  The office of Parish President could be added.

“I’m on the record in believing that we have term limits,” Councilman Orgeron declared, pointing to quadrennial elections.

But Orgeron did offer the motion to forward the discussion to the full council, garnering a second from Councilman Mason.

A second Robert proposal, to levy a $5,000 fine against censured council member, was tabled in order for an opinion from the Attorney General to be requested.  Does Ascension’s governing authority have the power to fine its members?  We see no impediment.

“We have two experts here,” quipped Michael Mason recognizing the fact that his committee mates have each been censured.

Chairman Robert championed the deterrent effect on bad council behavior that a fine might have, though its punitive aspect is undeniable.  Corey Orgeron refuses to pay the pending judgment against him, awarding President Clint Cointment $9,896.10 after Judge Tess Stromberg dismissed Orgeron’s claims…

Orgeron still owes Ascension taxpayers $9,896.10

thus, a $5,000 fine would seem to be substantial to him.

A contrite Joel Robert downplayed potential politicization, the possibility that a six-member coalition might wield censure and a corresponding fine to cudgel a recalcitrant member into compliance.

“Being the other member of this council that has been censured, I can say wholeheartedly that knowing that you’ve let down your fellow council members has an effect on you,” a purportedly penitent Corey Orgeron wondered if the fine is necessary to encourage courteous behavior.

Councilman Mason recommended the need to clearly define what constitutes a censurable act if fines are to be levied, suggesting a sliding scale reflecting the severity of such censurable offenses.  The item was “tabled” in order to seek an AG opinion which will require a resolution of the full council.