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Sunday, June 16, 2019

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DA instructs misguided Council

DA instructs misguided Council

Back in January, the Lafourche Parish Council agreed to a resolution to hire Dr. Tommy Lasseigne as Finance Director and Human Resources Director for the parish.

After thorough debate on the resolution, the Council voted 5-4 to ratify Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle’s appointment of Lasseigne to both positions.

Cantrelle called hiring one person to do two jobs a “cost-saving measure”. Lasseigne was well qualified, he said.

Councilmen Bo Melvin, Cory Perrillioux, Armand Autin and Jerry Lafont voted against the measure.

Since that meeting, Councilman Jerry Jones has feuded with Lasseigne and Cantrelle over the administration’s changes to the way pumpers are paid overtime during rain events.

At the July 26th public meeting in Mathews, Jones called Lasseigne and Cantrelle “liars” when he challenged them to discuss the outcome of a closed-door meeting with administration over the vague pumper issue and the administration’s choice and payment for legal counsel in the matter.

Promises were made and broken at that meeting according to Jones.

“You got people flooding right now today but you are sitting down worrying about one little percentage. One little percentage of what people are making. You and your Finance Director because he’s making, because they are making more than him or whatever,” said Jones.

Cantrelle would neither defend nor discuss Jones’s comments or what changes he made in pumpers pay. He only said that he met with District Attorney Camille Morvant and was told to act on the “problem”.

“It was illegal what was done (in the past) and we are straightening it out,” said Cantrelle.

At the same July meeting, Jones introduced an ordinance which would make all department head positions “full time” and that “no department heads, directors or deputy directors shall be appointed to more than one full-time position at any given time within the executive branch.”

Despite other councilmen questioning the legality of the ordinance and asking Jones if he was “targeting” anyone, on August 9th the Council voted 6-2 in favor of the ordinance. Councilmen Michael Gros and James Bourgeois voted against the measure. Councilwoman Luci Sposito was absent.

On August 15, President Cantrelle vetoed the ordinance.

Council Chairman Jerry Lafont then called a special meeting prior to the August 23rd public forum, to override Cantrelle’s veto.

But DA Morvant also attended that meeting and advised the council not to override. Morvant said he was there to clarify any misunderstanding regarding his August 2nd opinion on the matter, stating that the council had essentially given Cantrelle the approval to appoint Lasseigne to two positions in the January meeting and that in voting to override they would be overriding the Home Rule Charter.

“These are administrative issues which ya’ll voted on back then,” said Morvant.

“The Charter is clear that once this council approves a department head under the conditions and circumstances given to you to vote on, then that person is the department head. That person can only be removed by going back to the Charter,” Morvant continued.

He went on to remind the Council that they do have checks and balances in the process, but they are on the “front end” during questioning prior to a vote.

“You can’t give the authority and then get mad after,” he said.

Under the Home Rule Charter, the Council may only remove a department head by resolution adopted by “yea” vote of at least seven of the voting members, sometimes referred to as a “super majority”.

The council finally agreed to take Morvant’s advice. The ordinance was “pulled” from the agenda and no vote was taken in the matter.