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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Officials leave council meeting early

Officials leave council meeting early

Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle was accused of leaving Tuesday’s Parish Council meeting an hour and a half early to go watch the LSU baseball game.

Cantrelle left the meeting at 6:46 p.m. along with numerous members of the administration. Interim Parish Administrator Tommy Lasseigne left about an hour afterward, at around 7:47 p.m., almost 30 minutes before the meeting actually ended. By the end of the meeting, which let out shortly after 8 p.m., only Public Works Director James Barnes remained present for the administration.

The meeting began with a short but contentious exchange between Cantrelle and Councilman Jerry Jones over the issue of two checks issued to Cantrelle for over $37,000. Cantrelle said the checks were to cover an accounting error that underpaid his salary over the past year and a half.

“You’re beating a dead horse,” Cantrelle said. “Listen, all the information was sent to the auditor, everything was done correctly. If you don’t think it was done correctly, then you go about it the way you gotta go about it. That’s all I got to say about it. It’s over.”

Jones asked how the administration came up with the numbers for Cantrelle’s salary and was told the auditor, Stagni & Company, had come up with the number. Cantrelle has also said any money he receives from raises is being used to set up a scholarship in his grandson’s name.

Cantrelle has said the administration has consulted with the district attorney’s office on the matter, however, Assistant District Attorney Lisa Orgeron said in an email that no official opinion has been rendered.

“According to my notes, on March 16, 2017, I called Mr. Lasseigne and told him that this was an accounting issue. Please note that even though he asked for advice in his original e-mail, it was not an official opinion request and therefore no official opinion was issued,” Orgeron said.

Cantrelle left before the council could vote on a resolution that would ask District Attorney Cam Morvant to render an opinion on whether Cantrelle could legally adjust salaries. The resolution was also amended by Jones to include a request for the District Attorney’s Office to review the calculation of Cantrelle’s salary.

Shortly after a 10-minute recess, Councilman Jerry Lafont broke into a discussion over money for administrative management services to express his disapproval of Cantrelle leaving.

“I think it’s a crying shame that Mr. so-called Parish President left this meeting at 6:46. I called somebody to go check. He’s at his house. I’d love to be home watching the LSU game, but I’ve got an obligation to the taxpayers and people of Lafourche Parish while he’s sitting at his house,” Lafont said. “I’m to the point where I’m going to vote zero for everything because we can’t get answers. His parish truck is parked at his house. I hope the parish realizes what they’ve done when they elected him.”

The council later voted against a resolution for a postage meter at the Thibodaux Government Complex because the administration was not present to answer why an out-of-state company was being used and whether any companies in the parish could be used.

Councilman Daniel Lorraine fired back when told his question would have to be answered by the administration.

“The administration? He’s here. Y’all don’t want him here, and he leaves and y’all want him here. Y’all need to make up your mind,” Lorraine said.

After the meeting, Councilman James Bourgeois, who moved for the resolution on behalf of the administration, said the council was acting ridiculously.

“The one they voted down was a postage meter for the Thibodaux office, so when people stop getting mail, they’ll know why. It’s ridiculous,” Bourgeois said.

The Daily Comet and Houma Courier attempted to contact Cantrelle for a statement as to why he left the meeting, but he did not respond.

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