During a special session Wednesday, the Lafourche Parish Council decided in just four minutes to reject Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle’s nomination of former Deputy Director of Communications Caroline Eschette to be the new parish administrator.
The council voted 3-6 against approving Eschette.
Voting for were Daniel Lorraine, James Bourgeois and Michael Gros.
Against were Jerry Jones, Luci Sposito, Aaron Melvin, Corey Perrillioux, Armand Autin and Jerry Lafont.
The council voted against Eschette with very little discussion or debate. When the council did begin discussion, only Lorraine, Bourgeois and Gros chose to speak and voice their support for Eschette.
“One thing she has a proven track record of is that she can reach out to people. Whether we want to hear it or not, she’s not afraid to speak,” Bourgeois said. “I think if you’re in a leadership position, you have to be able to talk to all audiences whether they like what you have to say or not and that’s really critical because the parish administrator has to be a liaison between the Parish Council and the parish president’s office. I think she’s proven to be very effective at talking to everyone.”
After the vote, both Lafont and Jones said one of their primary reasons for voting against her was their difficulty finding parish employees who said they liked Eschette.
“I took the employees’ advice. Over 90 percent of the parish employees I talked to didn’t want her,” Jones said. “I had two calls who said they wanted her and over 20 that said they didn’t. It’s that simple.”
Lorraine argued during the special session that Eschette had done well in her previous position as deputy director of communications and said that not all bosses are liked by their employees.
“I don’t see anything wrong with the resume and I think it was a good choice and I think she will help this parish a lot,” Lorraine said. “And just remember, when you’re the boss, not everyone likes you, but that’s besides the point.”
Sposito said her main concern was if something happened to Cantrelle, then Eschette would become the new parish president.
“I guess I look at it as the parish administrator is a really important position in the parish, so much so that let’s just say there’s a Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf and Mr. Jimmy dies. That person who’s parish administrator becomes parish president,” Sposito said. “I think that they need to be ready to handle such a thing. She’s been here for 15 months. We’ve been able to see the quality of her work, the content of her character, her education and her experience. The administrator is a heartbeat away and we’re in a very volatile area. We have to be careful.”
Sposito also said she didn’t think that the position was properly advertised and would have liked to have seen more choices. Eschette and Jake Cheramie were the only people who applied for the position and Cantrelle chose Eschette.
After the meeting, Eschette said via email that she would have welcomed the chance to discuss her appointment.
“I was honored to have been nominated for Parish Administrator by Parish President James Cantrelle. I want to thank Councilman Bourgeois, Gros and Lorraine for their support and kind remarks,” Eschette said. “I am very disappointed that the other council members chose not to engage in discussion regarding my appointment. I would have welcomed the opportunity before their vote.”
Cantrelle said after the meeting that Eschette not being approved was a loss for the parish.
“As far as I am concerned, Lafourche Parish missed out on having a highly qualified person as its administrator,” Cantrelle said. “Caroline is extremely talented and capable. She would have done an excellent job at this position. The people of Lafourche are the ones who lost.”
The parish has been without a permanent administrator since Jan. 31 when Cantrelle fired Reggie Bagala. Tommy Lasseigne is acting as interim parish administrator.
According to the parish’s home rule charter, Cantrelle has 60 days to nominate another candidate and then the council has 30 days from the announcement to vote on the candidate.
-- Staff Writer Dan Boudreaux can be reached at 857-2204 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_boudreaux.
Posted on Fri, April 7, 2017
by Dan Boudreaux, Daily Comet Staff Writer