Flooding concerns having long plagued the Town of Sorrento, threats to withhold important drainage improvement projects by four petulant Ascension Parish Council members are no laughing matter…not to the citizens of Sorrento (nor their neighbors to the west in the City of Gonzales). Aaron Lawler, Teri Casso, Corey Orgeron and John Cagnolatti (sitting as East Ascension Drainage Commissioners) made just such a threat on Monday’s agenda and Sorrento Mayor Chris Guidry exposed their petty political gamesmanship for all to see.
Councilman Lawler, presiding over Monday’s EA Drainage meeting in Chairman Chase Melancon’s absence, fessed up under grilling by Sorrento’s chief executive. Two items…
f. Discussion of requiring all municipalities on the Eastbank to have development drainage standards that are at least equal to Parish standards under possibility of cessation of drainage work in municipalities that do not have such standard (Vice-Chairman Aaron Lawler, Commissioners Terri Casso, John Cagnolotti, Corey Orgeron).
g. Resolution asking Eastbank municipalities to refuse annexation of any property that will be developed at drainage standards lower than the standards accepted by Ascension Parish? (Vice Chairman Aaron Lawler, Commissioners Terri Casso, John Cagnolotti, Corey Orgeron).
were added to the agenda in response to a remark made by Councilman Joel Robert on April 27, after the council’s Special Meeting to enact revisions to Ascension’s development code. Robert, according to David Mitchell of The Advocate, warned of the potential that “tougher wetlands standards would drive landowners to be annexed by Sorrento.” He confirmed that certain of his family’s property is being considered for annexation by the town.
That was, according to Lawler’s admission, the impetus for him, Casso, Cagnolatti and Orgeron to threaten “cessation of drainage work” in Sorrento, but also the City of Gonzales (Ascension’s only other east bank municipality).
“A council member was trying to do that,” hissed Lawler in a pique of faux outrage.
Cagnolatti’s passive/aggressiveness overriding common sense, the Gonzales councilman sponsored this dagger of an idea aimed at his constituents’ collective heart. At least he had the fortitude to attend Monday’s meeting (Corey Orgeron was absent again).
“If y’all want to fight amongst yourselves, go ahead,” Mayor Guidry dissected the motive behind the council quartet’s latest disgrace in a long line of shameful behavior. “Leave us out of it.”
Of course, all three stuck to the prepared script in the hopeless effort to clothe their petulance in the veneer of responsible governance, initially anyway. Councilman Cagnolatti, whose District 10 encompasses approximately half of the City of Gonzales, claimed to have alerted Mayor Barney Arceneaux and City Engineer Jackie Baumann before adding the agenda items. According to Cagnolatti “they didn’t have a problem (because the City of Gonzales) follows our code.”
Councilman Lawler also conceded that “Gonzales’ standards are equal to ours.”
Mayor Arceneaux told a different tale altogether in multiple conversations prior to Monday’s meeting of EA Drainage, and afterwards.
It is true that Gonzales’ ordinances track those of the parish, and the parish signs off on drainage included in subdivision development within the city limits. Which begs the question, why threaten to cease all drainage improvements inside the city?
Speaking of LIES…
“The whole goal of this was a discussion, that we could look at this stuff and work with the administration, and have them work with y’all,” Aaron Lawler responded to Mayor Chris Guidry. “We all have full time jobs.”
Mayor Guidry would not be duped by Lawler’s reptilian deceptions.
“A little bit of conversation would have avoided all this,” Guidry assured, describing “a great working relationship with the administration…To get blindsided by something like this is disturbing.”
Neither was President Clint Cointment’s administration included in the council quartet’s treachery. Cointment was left to clean up their mess, though. He had communicated with both east bank mayors, as well as Mayor Leroy Sullivan of Donaldsonville who attended Monday’s meeting (Mayor Arceneaux had to preside over the City of Gonzales’ council meeting a few tenths of a mile north on Irma Blvd where the city’s annual budget was approved).
Cointment, unlike his predecessor, has endeavored to establish productive working relationships with three mayoral administrations. He assured “continued cooperation with municipalities” while lamenting “a dangerous precedent” being contemplated by Aaron Lawler, Teri Casso, Corey Orgeron and John Cagnolatti.
The matter was “tabled” until next month and you are unlikely to ever see it again, discretion being the better part of valor after Mayor Chris Guidry busted their game.