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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Council leader wants parish to follow charter

Council leader wants parish to follow charter

Luci Sposito, who was elected the Lafourche Parish Council chairwoman earlier this month, has taken steps to ensure the parish government follows its charter.

At the council’s last meeting, Sposito requested several changes from the administration.

Sposito said the parish’s charter mandates that the finance department must present annual reports to the council, but that has not been done for the past two years.

“We need that to govern properly and to know the state of the parish. Finances and activities are an important part of that,” she said.

Sposito asked the administration to address those two missing years as soon as possible.

“I don’t know when he’s going to do it or if he’s going to do it,” she said, referring to Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle.

Sposito also asked council members to nominate one person from their districts to serve on a charter review committee.

The original charter commission did a great job, she said, but situations have come up in recent years that the charter doesn’t cover.

By creating a committee, Sposito said she hopes it will create a prioritized list of proposals that could be expanded upon and put into the hands of the Lafourche District Attorney’s Office.

“What I think may be a problem, the committee may not,” she said, declining to comment on what specific areas were lacking. “We can share our concerns with them, but not put every change on the next election, which won’t be until December.”

The council will likely approve the committee appointees during the March 13 meeting, Sposito said.

She also addressed an ongoing issue between the council, the administration and the parish’s civil servants.

It’s the council’s common practice not to speak with civil servants, instead referring questions to the parish president or his department heads as a means of protecting civil servants who work for the parish throughout multiple administrations.

Lately, Sposito said there have been fewer department heads attending council meetings, which raises concerns and leaves questions unanswered.

The announcement given Tuesday served as a warning, Sposito said. She asked for Cantrelle to provide the council with a list of civil servants they could speak to.

“It’s just for formality and efficiency,” Sposito said.

While only three of the department heads are required by charter — finance, public works and civil service — the others are much-needed positions, she said.

The finance and public works positions have come under scrutiny by the council, which has alleged that project managers or civil servants are completing the directors’ duties. Those allegations have been refuted by the administration.

“There’s been a lot of circumventing in my opinion; I’m just trying to pull things back,” Sposito said.

The council also voted Tuesday to request an opinion from the District Attorney’s Office about whether it is legal for the administration to access legislative employees’ electronic files or emails via parish employees or outside firms.

The council and administration share a server and IT staff, Sposito said. While all records are public, a request is normally required to view those documents.

“Some things happened lately that concerned me,” she said, declining to elaborate. “No crazy secrets are happening.”

In general, Sposito said she doesn’t think it’s legal for the administration to access legislative documents without a request, adding that could violate the separation of powers.


-- Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or Follow her on Twitter at @gingerale214.