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Sunday, March 24, 2019



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Judge: Parish president violated charter

Judge: Parish president violated charter


A judge has ruled that Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle violated the parish charter when he didn’t remove an interim parish administrator from the position last year.

District Judge Buddy Larose issued the judgment to Lafourche District Attorney Kristine Russell, Cantrelle and parish employee Brent Abadie on Feb. 13. He said the continued appointment of Abadie as interim parish administrator, after he was rejected by the Parish Council for the permanent position, violates the parish charter.

Larose sided with the District Attorney’s Office.

“This Court does not agree with the defendants’ argument that the interim Administrator and the permanent Administrator are two separate and distinct positions,” the ruling states.

As a result of the ruling, all official actions Abadie made as interim administrator after the vote on Oct. 1, 2018, are now “null and void,” Larose said.

“Once we received the judgment of the court, we began the process of evaluating the impact of this particular part of the ruling on the parish,” Russell said, adding it is too soon to comment on that.

Cantrelle declined to comment on the ruling but said he wasn’t surprised by the decision and plans to appeal.

“I don’t agree with everything but doesn’t mean I’m right or wrong. The Court of Appeal will determine that situation,” he said.

“We are satisfied with the ruling of the trial court and will work to uphold the judgment in the pending appeals process,” Russell said. “Hopefully the judgment will do nothing more than put all of us back on track, working towards the same goal, which is to serve the best interests of the people of Lafourche Parish.”

This lawsuit stems from a series of events that took place between the administration and the Parish Council at the end of 2018.

In August, Cantrelle appointed Abadie as interim administrator following the council’s firing of Tommy Lasseigne. Cantrelle later nominated Abadie to serve in the permanent position, but the Parish Council voted against him on Oct. 1.

After the nomination failed, Abadie continued to serve in an interim capacity. This led to questions by the Parish Council. Councilwoman Luci Sposito, who was serving as chairwoman at the time, requested a district attorney’s opinion.

On Oct. 16, Russell issued an opinion stating Abadie was ineligible to serve as administrator as a result of the vote, either permanently or on an interim basis.

However, Abadie remained in the interim position until Russell filed suit Oct. 19, and Larose granted an injunction Nov. 16.

At that time, Abadie said he was stepping down from the position. Since then, Cantrelle said he has taken over all administrative duties himself.

A hearing on the matter was held Jan. 15. Larose spent the following weeks considering arguments.

Despite the ruling, legal questions remain.

Larose declined to grant declaratory relief to Cantrelle and Abadie who sought judgement largely on whether the council has the authority to terminate an interim administrator. Declaratory relief is an official judgment about the legal status of a controversy or interpretation of the statute, without ordering any actions.

However, Larose did reaffirm that the district attorney is the regular attorney and legal counsel for the parish and has a statutorial relationship with the parish president.

That ruling “reaffirms the position we have consistently maintained since 2003,” Russell said. “Obviously, the judgment doesn’t change our commitment to fulfilling our role as the legal advisor to the parish.”

 

-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or julia.arenstam@houmatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.