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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Council expresses “No Confidence” in parish president

Council expresses “No Confidence” in parish president

Lafourche Parish Councilman Daniel Lorraine called a resolution declaring “No Confidence” in Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle’s leadership “something you can hang on a wall and maybe put some flowers around--that’s all.”

But Thursday night’s special council meeting convened by Chairman Corey Perrillioux should have sent a strong message to Cantrelle—either change or parish government will grind to a halt!

Each and every member of the Council voiced his or her concerns over how Cantrelle is running things and they all said his way is wrong.

First and foremost, they said, was the wrongful firing on Tuesday of Parish Administrator Reggie Bagala.

The Council moved immediately Thursday night to keep Bagala in some capacity, giving him the Internal Auditor’s position.

Perrillioux said there were two reasons for calling the meeting—fear of losing the services of Bagala to another parish and “things behind the scenes” such as the number of Civil Service complaints brought by employees in recent months.

“The backhanded comments to employees--enough is enough,” he said.

Jerry Jones said that Bagala had done an outstanding job and that to lose him to another parish would be a “detriment to Lafourche.”

Several council members said they received calls from citizens and parish employees who were distraught and crying over Bagala’s dismissal and the way it was handled.

On Tuesday, Bagala was forced by Cantrelle to vacate his office and the Mathews Government Complex in the company of three Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies who drove him home. (In a related personnel issue, Doug Cheramie, Director of Communications for the parish, resigned Thursday morning and had no comment on the matter.)

“Someone has to apologize to you on behalf of the parish,” said Luci Sposito to Bagala. “I hope our support makes up somewhat for what has happened to you.”

The resolution to hire Bagala as auditor passed 7-1 with James Bourgeois against and Daniel Lorraine abstaining.

Bourgeois said “urgency” should be directed to pump stations and other drainage issues and not toward resolutions against Cantrelle.

On the “No Confidence” issue, council members were miffed at Cantrelle’s tactics and his ability to lead the Parish going forward.

“Based on my first year, I am totally dumbfounded by things he did and did not do,” said Bo Melvin.

“Don Matherne served 25 years in the military and finished as a Major. He couldn’t work for Lafourche Parish for six months? Mr. Cantrelle could not properly answer one question at the budget meeting last year. We're hitting rock bottom and we keep digging. We are trying to move ahead but we keep having to drag this administration along,” said Melvin.

Armand Autin said he recently received 24 calls regarding a pumper not manning his pumps. The pumper was found to be on his shrimp boat instead of at work. He was subsequently fired, but Autin says Cantrelle then hired him back.

Jerry Lafont stated he has a recorded conversation of a local contractor who says Cantrelle asked the contractor to get Lafont to “negotiate a contract" with the parish so he could be arrested.

Lorraine wanted to amend the resolution to state that the president and the council were equally to blame for the question of “no confidence”, but his amendment failed with only Bourgeois and Lorraine voting yes.

On the “No Confidence” resolution, six voted in favor with Lorraine against, and Bourgeois and Michael Gros abstaining.

The last resolution of the night was a request to District Attorney Cam Morvant to give his opinion on whether Cantrelle’s latest moves are in line with the language of the Home Rule Charter.

During discussion of this measure, it was admitted by Lafont and other members that Cantrelle has already hired former Finance Director Tommy Lasseigne as the Interim Administrator and Paul Robichaux as Interim Director of Community Services.

In a letter dated February 2 and read at Thursday’s meeting, Morvant advised Cantrelle that pending further investigation his appointments may be improper.

Lafont read the letter into public record.

Morvant stated that Cantrelle should be “cognizant of the possibility that pending the issuance of the requested opinion, any actions taken by you with regards to appointing an interim administrator and an interim department head, and any actions taken by these appointments may be null and void. Furthermore, you and the interim appointments may have legal ramifications.”

At Thursday’s meeting, neither Cantrelle nor any of his administration was present.