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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Council members continue questioning Parish President’s “lack of communication”

Council members continue questioning Parish President’s “lack of communication”


At Tuesday’s Parish Council meeting, some Council members continued their monthly attacks on Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle, especially for what they called his lack of “communication” during the recent rain event in the parish, and for not following procedure after an involvement in a May 22 vehicle accident.

During questioning about response to last weekend’s torrential rains in which as much as 8 to 10 inches of rain water flooded several homes and for which the National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings, District 2 Councilwoman Luci Sposito asked Cantrelle why he was not on the “front line” with press releases during the storms.

“I sent you an email Sunday about communication. I’m just wondering, during a rain event are we just giving up on trying to inform the public as to what’s going on, or the status of the parish?” asked Sposito.

“I called Public Works Director James Barnes and asked him if he had anything to report, and he said no,” answered Cantrelle.

“So you think in a situation like that, that the only thing that needs to be told to the public is something Mr. Barnes has to report? Nothing about an emergency number, because I had someone who had a tree fall on their vehicle and they didn’t know whom to contact?” she asked.

Cantrelle said that anyone with a problem can call the parish number, and an answering service will route the call to the proper department.

“The administration needs to get on the front line and inform the public,” replied Sposito.

District 3 Councilman Michael Gros reminded the council of what was done by the previous administration. “In the past we had the public information officer put out that the barns had sand bags and a phone number. We didn’t do it this time and we need to do a better job next time,” said Gros.

Cantrelle was also grilled on his handling of an accident he was involved in while driving a parish vehicle, first reported at a July council meeting by Internal Auditor Reggie Bagala.

“Last meeting you said you had an accident and the damage was $107? What was the damage on the other vehicle?” asked District 1 Councilman Jerry Jones.

“I have no clue,” answered Cantrelle.

Jones: “Did the parish pay for the other vehicle?”

Cantrelle: “I have no clue.”

Jones: “Mr. Cantrelle, I think you signed a check for $2200 for that vehicle.”

Cantrelle: “I don’t know.”

Jones: “You don’t know what you stamped (signed)?”

Cantrelle: “It’s a standard stamp.”

Jones: “You don’t know what you’re stamping?”

Cantrelle: No response.

Council Chairman Cory Perrillioux asked Cantrelle, “What is the policy for vehicle accidents? Did you submit to a drug test?”

Cantrelle: “It was after 5. I reported it the next morning.”

Jones: “The policy and procedures manual says for all employees to take a drug test after an accident.”

Cantrelle: “I did what I thought was right. If I did the wrong thing I’m sorry. I’ll take a drug test any time.”

Cantrelle also said he had researched past accidents by parish employees and found “many” were unreported even during work hours, and that a vehicle was “hidden for three or four months in the barn” without the accident being reported.

But Michael Gros again implored the administration to be a forward-thinking body rather than looking at the past.

“Why are you wasting time going back and trying to figure out who else might have done the same thing? Let’s move forward. We don’t need to dig up past administrations. That’s ridiculous. Let’s move the parish forward,” said Gros.

“The reason I did the research was to find out if I was the only one and I found out I’m not the only one,” Cantrelle said.

Parish Administrator Leif Haas admitted that the policy and procedures manual only “very generally” says what to do following an accident and that his department would work to “redefine” the policy.