With two members vying for the chairmanship of East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District No. 1 (EA Drainage Board) on Monday, we have little indication which way the vote is going to go. The incumbent, five-term councilman Dempsey Lambert, is holding on for dear life against the challenge posed by first-termer, Chase Melancon who is currently the vice-chairman. In the chair since September 2, 2014, the gavel will have to be pried from Lambert’s cold, dead hands.
Does he have the votes for a ninth consecutive time?
Considering the deep fissures within the governing authority, ten of whom comprise EA Drainage Board sitting Ex Officio, anything could happen and tonight’s vote is a toss-up. The usual politicking could not settle the dispute as in the past, when the deals were cut before the vote, the veneer of a united front even when mutual loathing had to be suppressed. All the pro forma palaver about working together aside, certain members harbor sincere dislike for certain others (and the sentiment is returned with equal fervor).
The battle lines criss-cross the entire membership, though some refrain from airing grievances publicly.
Councilman Melancon is the preferred choice of President Clint Cointment’s administration, understandably since Chairman Lambert was part of the cabal that attempted to strip Cointment of his authority over EA Drainage. Lambert and five others voted to terminate a standing agreement with Ascension Parish Government on June 28, defying a vocal (and furious) citizenry in the process.
A few months of fruitless negotiation before a deal seemed near, then Lambert dropped a letter bomb on September 23.
“Dear President Cointment:
Please let this letter provide official written notice of termination of the Intergovernmental Agreement between East Ascension Gravity Drainage District (EAGDD)(sic) and Ascension Parish Council whereby the office of the Parish President was granted the exclusive right to administer the maintenance of, operation of, repair of, and provision of drainage for the Parish of Ascension. The notice is pursuant to the action taken at the East Ascension Gravity Drainage District meeting held on June 28, 2021 whereby the District voted to exercise the termination provision of the intergovernmental agreement.
Pursuant to the Intergovernmental Agreement’s termination provision all authority granted to you shall expire upon 60 days from the date of this letter.
The ardent Cointment-haters have not experienced an epiphany, and a vote for Lambert is a vote against the Parish President. We can discern little in the way of accomplishment to recommend a continuation of Lambert’s continuation in EA Drainage’s chair. But certain members (Aaron Lawler and Corey Orgeron for sure/Teri Casso and John Cagnolatti possibly) will not accede to Cointment’s agenda, not willingly anyway.
NOTE: If the recent trend holds, maybe Corey Orgeron stays away, denying Lambert one vote.
Lawler and Casso have little use of Dempsey Lambert, aside from the mutual loathing of President Cointment. The enemy of one’s enemy, and all. Lawler even attempted to find a viable candidate against Lambert preparatory to the 2019 election, to no avail (Lambert was doing the same to Lawler). And all of Lambert’s most ardent council support (former council members Todd Lambert, Randy Clouatre and Benny Johnson) got unelected two years ago.
The onus fails to Chase Melancon. The St. Amant representative has gone to great lengths, playing nice and being the voice of reason since January 2019 when his name was offered as a challenge to Teri Casso’s chairmanship of the Parish Council. Has he amassed the political capital to usurp Lambert’s throne since then?
A dubious proposition in this snake pit.