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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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Lafourche Parish Council holds special meeting

Lafourche Parish Council holds special meeting


When the Lafourche Parish Council delayed a vote on April 24th on President Jimmy Cantrelle’s “umpteenth” nominee for a department head position, you knew his proposal was in trouble.

When only seven council members showed up for a special meeting this past Monday and when one of the members, Councilman James Bourgeois, was escorted out of the chambers via a restraining order, you knew nominee Ralph Lagarde Jr.’s chance of becoming the parish’s Finance Director were doomed.

The vote was 4-2 in favor of Lagarde, but it takes a 5-vote majority of council members, present or absent, to ratify a nomination.

Of the six present, Autin, Melvin, Perrillioux and Lorraine voted in favor of Lagarde. Lafont and Jones voted against the nomination. Sposito, Gros and Bourgeois were absent.

Bourgeois was ordered by a sheriff’s deputy to leave because Jerry Lafont filed a protective order against him over an incident between the two at the April meeting.

Lafont said he was threatened by Bourgeois and recorded the encounter. The Bayou Blue councilman says Lafont intentionally provoked him.

Prior to the vote and sensing a lack of majority, Cantrelle asked: “Are you telling me now that we’re not going to hire a Finance Director? This is y’all’s decision not hiring one? No matter if Jesus Christ comes up here, qualified, and y’all not gonna’ hire him when the Charter says we have to have one?”

Cantrelle received no answer.

Lagarde has worked for the parish since November of last year, most recently serving as Interim Director of Finance since March.

He has over 25 years of banking experience, holding Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Business Administration from Nicholls State University and also a Graduate Degree in Banking from LSU.

While no member questioned Lagarde’s qualifications for the job, some felt hiring him would create three paid management positions.

Lagarde, Renita Jackson and Carol Hymel are all managers in the finance department.

Hymel was Finance Director earlier this year but resigned amid pressure from the Council. Cantrelle then hired him into a manager’s role in the finance department.

Jackson was fired in January by Cantrelle but reinstated by the Civil Service Board who said Cantrelle fired her improperly.

Jackson’s position is in paid “limbo” pending legal proceedings.

The problem for some council members was too many paid managers in one department.

“We have Ms. Renita who won her case and she’ll have to get her job back, and we have the previous Finance Director who is now in that department. So we’ll have two people at the same position. That’s where the confusion sets in. You’re cutting people back to 35 hours and you have duplicated positions. We should only need one director and one manager,” said Lafont.

Interim Parish Administrator Tommy Lasseigne said money is there to hire Lagarde.

“The positions are there now,” said Lasseigne, meaning they are already being paid and covered by the approved budget. No new money would be needed, he said.

Other members expressed their dismay over Cantrelle’s latest move to put another manager in Finance while cutting workers’ hours from 40 to 35 per week.

“We’re trying to be fiscally responsible by not having duplicate positions and creating positions for people,” stated Bo Melvin.

Jerry Jones echoed Melvin in saying the source of money to pay several members of the department is “not clear”.

“You’re hiring other people, creating positions in there, and paying substantial amounts. So until somebody tells me where the money’s coming from, I can’t vote for it,” said Jones.

Lasseigne countered that there is enough money in the budget to pay a Director.

“Just with the resignation of a para-legal, and also we haven’t been paying a project manager’s position for four months now, and the reduction in worker hours. In other words, there’s adequate money to cover the position. Money is not the issue,” he said.

Lagarde was visibly upset and blamed the outcome of the meeting on an email from Chris Frilloux asking Corey Perrillioux to vote against Lagarde for Finance Director.

Although Perrillioux did favor Lagarde, he read the email into the minutes of the meeting.

The email contained allegations that Lagarde did a poor job of managing finances at the Sugarland Country Club when he was treasurer for that organization.

Lagarde defended his actions for the Sugarland Country Club and said he was “blindsided” by Frilloux’s comments in the email.

“I just want to say that Chris Frilloux underhandedly sent that email and I think it was totally unfair and uncalled for. I want all his friends to know what he did tonight,” said Lagarde.