In typical fashion the Lafourche Parish Council voted in favor of an important measure on Tuesday, and then questioned the legality of their action.
After lengthy debate and a 5-3 approval vote, a resolution by Phillip Gouaux changed Dr. Tommy Lasseigne’s role as Legislative Internal Auditor from full-time to “part-time/as-needed” status.
Councilmen Jerry Jones, Joe Fertitta, Jerry Lafont, Mike Delatte and Phillip Gouaux voted in favor of the resolution reducing Lasseigne to a part-time legislative branch employee. Aaron Caillouet, Daniel Lorraine, and Lindel Toups voted against the measure. Councilman John Arnold was absent.
Gouaux, who was against creating the position of Internal Auditor three years ago, expressed displeasure with Lasseigne’s output as auditor and the way in which Lasseigne kept the council apprised of his work.
“From day one I asked for regular reports and emails out of that office. I didn’t get any of that,” he said.
Gouaux went on to say that the office was not doing the required work, and that the parish was not getting its money’s worth.
“If we see a need, then we should hire him, not keep someone on the payroll at $75,000 per year. That’s pretty costly,” he said.
Joe Fertitta was also in favor of part-time status for the position.
“I think Phillip Gouaux is on the right track. When we assign tasks (to the auditor), the job gets done. But some problems we tried to correct were not done,” said Fertitta. He did not elaborate on “problems” to which he was referring.
Aaron Caillouet called Lasseigne’s job that of an inspector general, not an auditor.
“He should not be working at the whim of any councilman who wants to do something,” said Caillouet.
He also called for a plan under which the Internal Auditor should act and offered to author a description of the position as it was intended by the Charter, promising to have it before the council by next month.
But some councilmen were in favor of keeping Lasseigne full time and said the auditor had a positive impact on parish government.
Daniel Lorraine called the hiring of the Internal Auditor “one of the best things the council has ever done.”
Lorraine said Lasseigne was instrumental in the ongoing process of straightening out the Office of Community Action, in bringing to light certain actions of the Tourist Commission, and in smoothing out aspects of the yearly budget process.
“The only reason he didn’t seem to have work in the past was because departments didn’t respond to his request for information,” said Lorraine.
Lindel Toups called the division of the council over the role of the Internal Auditor a personality issue.
“I think we are letting personalities get in the way. It’s a known fact that some councilmen don’t like him,” Toups stated.
Council Chairman Jerry Lafont advised the council that Lasseigne has taken vacation for 30 days beginning April 11.
After passing the resolution in favor of part-time status, some councilmen questioned whether the council was legal in its action.
According to Lafourche’s Home Rule Charter, the council can remove the Internal Auditor by “a resolution adopted by a favorable two-thirds (2/3) vote of at least six (6) of its voting members”, but the Charter has no provision for modifying the auditor’s employment status.
Lindel Toups then offered a resolution from the floor to seek District Attorney Camille Morvant’s opinion as to whether it is legal to reduce the position of Internal Auditor from full time to part time with only a simple majority vote.
The motion to seek the DA’s advice passed 8-0.
Posted on Fri, April 17, 2015
by Buster Avera, Contributing Writer