Sorrento’s Council agenda on Monday included Executive Session-Discussion of Litigation; Town of Sorrento vs East Ascension Drainage District. It never happened because two of the four members present voted against having the closed door meeting. So, what is the status of the litigation initiated by Mayor Mike Lambert?
The contentious relationship between the Town of Sorrento and East Ascension Drainage District is one of long-standing. Cash-strapped, Sorrento elected officials have pleaded with the District, and successive parish presidential administrations to provide relief to an overburdened drainage system. Mayor Lambert filed the suit seeking to have the District’s “continuing duty and obligation to clean and maintain the roadside ditches and culverts within” Sorrento recognized by judicial declaration.
“I wanted to have this Executive Session to find out what’s going on with this ill-advised lawsuit,” responded Councilman Chris Guidry. “It was filed by the mayor without my knowledge, apparently without any council member knowing, and I can’t get a straight answer from the mayor or our attorney.”
Thus, Guidry called for the Executive Session discussion, thinking he had support from his council colleagues. Only one, Councilman Randy Anny joined Guidry in voting to hold the discussion.
“The citizens of Sorrento have a right, and a desire to know what’s happening,” a frustrated Anny stated after Monday’s meeting. “Ignoring their wishes, declining to provide information or even entertain a discussion is a disservice to every resident of Sorrento.”
The mere act of filing the lawsuit was also “a disservice” to those residents according to both Anny and Guidry, both of whom deemed the litigation “pointless and a waste of time” and scarce resources.
“We have nothing to gain, even if we win every legal point,” opined Chris Guidry who is eyeing a run for Sorrento mayor next April. “Recognition that some undefined obligation exists from EA Drainage to Sorrento does not get the first roadside ditch dug while further dividing the elected bodies.”
Sorrento’s acute drainage problems extend well beyond roadside ditches according to Guidry who conceded the town’s reliance on EA Drainage’s good will toward the town. He was eager to point out recent work performed by Ascension Parish drainage crews.
“We have to repair the relationship,” interjected Councilman Anny who urged his colleagues to dismiss the lawsuit (and offer an apology to EA Drainage) in an email some weeks ago. “The current parish leadership understands that projects beneficial to Sorrento also benefit thousands of parish residents.”
Meanwhile, EA Drainage was meeting at the Courthouse Annex in Gonzales with an agenda that included:
Approval of Selection Committee recommendation for Engineering Services to upgrade Conway Bayou Pump Station.
Infinity Engineering Consultants was selected from a dozen competing firms to engineer a $17 million project that will add another pump to the Conway Bayou Station in Sorrento. Funded by a FEMA grant secured by Ascension Parish, the intention is an extensive reworking of the town’s drainage.
“Personally, I’ve never been denied access to Ascension Parish officials since taking office. In fact, from top to bottom those officials have welcomed my input and answered every question I’ve had,” Councilman Guidry said. “Whatever happened in the past to create this divisiveness needs to be left in the past so we can best serve the people who elected us.”
He joined Councilman Anny in calling for dismissal of pending litigation. Ranny Anny, plus Chris Guidry do not a council majority make. Neither can the convince Mayor Lambert to budge.
Municipal elections are scheduled for April of 2021.