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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Lafourche Parish Council fires lobbyist

Lafourche Parish Council fires lobbyist

The Lafourche Parish Council voted to not continue using Mary-Patricia Wray of Top Drawer Strategies as the parish's lobbyist.

In a 5-4 vote Tuesday, the council decided the parish doesn't need a lobbyist or want to continue paying the $42,000 a year for her services, which had been provided during the past year's legislative sessions.

After the vote, Councilman Michael Gros, who voted in favor of keeping Wray as the parish's lobbyist, asked why members of the council voted to get rid of what he saw as a needed service.

"I'm gonna tell you why I voted against it," said Councilman Corey Perrillioux. "That's $42,000, and they want to raise the taxes on people so we can pick up garbage. It was absolutely a fiscal issue for me. We have enough parish employees that they can appoint somebody to go and report back on legislative items."

Wray had received letters of recommendation from state Sen. Bret Allain; state Reps. Jerome Zeringue, Tanner Magee, Jerry Gisclair and Dee Richard; and Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove.

Both Perrillioux and Councilman Jerry Lafont voiced concerns over needing to have a lobbyist to talk to the parish's delegation. Lafont said council members could be the parish's lobbyists if they called the legislators who represented them and kept them to task.

"I don't agree with lobbyists," said Lafont. "Never liked lobbyists, never agreed with the method of it. You don't see people coming to lobby us to vote something. That's one reason I voted against it. I also don't think her values are on the same level as mine. Everyone she's supported over the past couple years in campaigns are people I didn't agree with their message."

Lafont said the thing that bothered him most was the fact that Wray was also representing other parishes such as Terrebonne Parish and asked how much she would be able to work for their interests if she was also representing parishes that don't necessarily share Lafourche's interests.

Councilman Daniel Lorraine, Councilman James Bourgeois and Gros all said they believed that the vote against Wray was a mistake, saying that the parish needs a lobbyist in Baton Rouge to get things done.

"I think it's imperative that Lafourche Parish have a lobbyist in Baton Rouge," Bourgeois said. "People that get things done are the people who have lobbyists that represent their parish and look for their specific needs. We need a lobbyist, and if you don't like Miss Wray, that's fine, that's it right there, but we need a lobbyist."

Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle gave his reaction via email, saying Wray had done a great job.

"Mrs. Wray has done a tremendous job for the people of Lafourche Parish the past year," Cantrelle said. "Her advocacy to prevent catastrophic cuts to local revenues from offshore vessels was priceless in our down economy. Her time at the Capital was spent focused on funding coastal restoration, capital outlay and infrastructure projects that are vital to the safety of our citizens."

In an email released after the decision, Wray wrote that she hoped she could continue the professional relationship she and the parish government had developed and wished Lafourche Parish well in its future endeavors. She also thanked the people of Lafourche Parish for the opportunity to represent them.

"I regret that, after much effort on my part to address any concerns you may have had about my contract most of you declined to have an open dialogue with me and instead opted for the political maneuver," Wray said. "However, being very experienced in working with governmental bodies, I have seen our more base instincts trump what is probably a more professional, practical, and respectful pathway many times. And this likely won't be the last such instance."

Wray closed by saying she will continue her work on behalf of Terrebonne Parish and said "should you ever require anything from me please do not hesitate to reach out."

-- Staff Writer Dan Boudreaux can be reached at 857-2204 or Follow him on Twitter @dan_boudreaux.