Robert prevails over Lawler…again

Borrowed with gratitude to, and permission from, our friends at Ascension Parish Department of Memes

The Louisiana Board of Ethics has wrapped up its “confidential investigation” of a 2021 agreement between Ascension Parish and Councilman Joel Robert’s family-owned company.  Pursuant to the deal Ascension Parish briefly deposited “surplus excavated materials” from the New River dredging project onto property owned by Robert’s family.  No ethical violations were cited.

On June 23, 2021 the Robert company executed a Hold Harmless Agreement permitting the parish to off-load sludge deemed value-less by Ascension Parish. It would be rescinded on August 10, 2021, leaving the parish scrambling to find an alternate site, incurring unnecessary costs, to facilitate the dredging project.

The Ethics Board hearing was held on September 1, resulting in a correspondence dated September 8 that concluded:

“After consideration of the evidence, the Board declined to take any further enforcement action.  Accordingly, the Board instructed me to close the file at this time.”

Translation: The Board declined to take any enforcement action whatsoever because the entire investigation was an abject waste of time, money and manpower.  Several members of President Clint Cointment’s administration (including the top dog) were grilled by the Ethics Board which found no wrongdoing by anyone involved.

The correspondence went on to “caution…immediate family member(s) of Joel Robert (who) are prohibited from entering into any transaction that is under the supervision or jurisdiction of the Ascension Parish Government.”  Fair enough.  But Robert’s family stepped in and stepped up to bail out the parish when another major landowner rescinded authority to offload New River sludge days before the dredging project was schedule to begin.

Grady Melancon had executed a Hold Harmless Agreement on March 2, 2020 to accommodate “excavated materials acquired from jobsites.”  He rescinded same after it became clear that Ascension Parish taxpayers would not be on the hook to build a road through his Buzzard Roost industrial complex.

Buzzard Roost preliminary plat approval rescinded

So the New River Dredging project was ready to proceed without any place to deposit the spoil material choking one of Ascension’s major drainage arteries.  It was the Robert family that filled the breach.  The Robert company executed the identical Hold Harmless (its a boilerplate form) so the project could begin on schedule.

Shamelessly, Lawler and his council cronies (each of whom will be joining Lawler on the ash-heap of political history after the October 14, 2023 elections) could not help themselves..

It was another petulant pillow fight picked by Councilman Aaron Lawler which failed to land a glove on the Teflon Councilman representing District 2.  Devoid of artifice, Joel Robert is virtually immune and mostly oblivious to Lawler’s machinations, no matter that a certain Baton Rouge publication attempted to infuse credence into this non-story.

The explanatory caption to a video posted by The Advocate on August 9, 2021 read:

“This Ascension Parish dump truck unloads dirt on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, onto property owned by the father of Ascension Parish Councilman Joel Robert. Robert says he was helping keep a parish dredging project going after another landowner refused to take the material. The dirt was delivered at no cost to Robert’s family.”

It accompanied another piece, since deleted apparently, with the headline:  Mud fight: Ascension councilman’s dad getting free dirt from parish project, stirring questions

The reporter of that obfuscatory piece quoted James Moore, the owner of Bridging the Gap, LLC which had its preliminary winning bid for the New River dredging project tossed out by Judge Tess Stromberg.  Boone Services, LLC was, ultimately, awarded the job.

Viewed from the east, striking image of increased capacity in New River

James Moore was, without a shred of context offered by the usually fair-minded reporter, provided a platform to claim that the New River sludge was worth $300/yard (if memory serves since the piece can no longer be accessed).  No mention was made of the fact that Moore’s company lost the job due, in large part, to his incompetence.  Disgruntled is the kindest adjective we can come up with to describe Mr. Moore.

Aaron Lawler deserves worse.