St. Charles Council overrides veto on hiring of attorney

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 17, 1999

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / November 17, 1999

HAHNVILLE – A 6-2 vote overrode St. Charles Parish President ChrisTregre’s veto of a budget amendment aimed at allowing the Parish Council to hire its own advisory attorney.

As Tregre pointed out in his veto message, he was “not totally opposed to acquiring additional legal assistance,” but that for the Parish Council to contract with an attorney would violate the Home Rule Charter.

In addition, Tregre continued, any attorney hired as additional counsel for the Parish Council would, by law, come under the supervision of the director of the legal services department, currently Randy Lewis. Thecharter does not give the Parish Council authority to hire anyone besides its own secretary, nor does it provide any means for the attorney to be paid, except through the Parish President, who administers the budget.

Voting in favor of overriding Tregre’s veto were council members Dee Abadie, Barry Minnich, Dickie Duhe, Terry Authement, Bill Sirmon and Brian Champagne. Supporting Tregre were Ellis Alexander and ChrisJohnson Sr.

Earlier in the meeting the Parish Council voted on the override and failed by one vote. However, later in the meeting, Minnich re-introduced thematter and demanded a new vote, in which he changed sides.

“I took a little more time to think about it,” he told the council just prior to the vote.

The matter had come up during budget hearings, stemming from earlier confrontations between Lewis and some council members, notably during discussions on the West Bank hurricane protection levee.

Champagne added later, “We just feel the legislative branch needs our own counsel.”Therefore, the council voted to add $50,000 to hire by contract an attorney to provide legal services specifically to the council – something already done by Lewis and his office.

Lewis commented, “All it’s going to do is create a lot of extra work for the legal department office.”Tregre was more forthcoming: “What they did is trying to be illegal. Ifthey sign a contract, it’s illegal. The next parish president would be a foolto do it.”He continued, “I feel the charter is very specific in separating the powers and authority of the council and the parish president. Like it or not, thisbody speaks as one. Otherwise, it would be chaos.”In other matters, Minnich presented a brief report on the current practice of the state highway department in short-term leasing right-of-way property along U.S. Highway 90 between the Delchamps and Winn-Dixieshopping centers. “I don’t think the state could do it,” Minnich said.Planning and Zoning Director James Badeaux said the problem arises when the parish, lacking a building code, has no legal provisions to prevent temporary-type construction for short-term businesses. The highwaydepartment had bought the right-of-way property years ago in preparation to the eventual construction of a limited-access road as a segment of U.S.Highway 90 is brought up to interstate highway standards as part of Interstate 49.

Discussions were also held on providing connecting cross streets between Bar None Ranch Estates in St. Rose and a proposed new subdivisionadjoining. Bar None residents oppose connecting streets and cite increasedtraffic through their narrow, crowded streets.

However, the matter was tabled until the next council meeting on Dec. 6when a public hearing is planned on the matter.

Dee Abadie attempted to address ongoing building maintenance and housekeeping problems in the parish courthouse and other parish buildings by trying to create a new Department of General Services. She also triedto pass an ordinance to mandate that the Parish President address immediate needs of several departments including carpet cleaning, restroom maintenance and a wish list for the state Office of Motor Vehicles in the courthouse.

Abadie reported she met earlier with Tregre but got little achieved. “Had I been able to wok this out in an amiable way with the administration, you would never had seen this,” she said.

“They will do what needs to be done,” Tregre said in the meeting. Bothmeasures failed.

Finally, Fleming Trosclair, founder and executive director of the National Rehabilitation Resource Center in Harvey, asked for and received support by resolution from the Parish Council to pursue development of a massive recreational center in the vicinity of the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion Project.

This would include fishier piers, swimming and other recreational activities for the physically handicapped and, Trosclair said, plans are to develop “the biggest disabled recreational center in the United States.”Trosclair said he has already received support for the concept from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”If this can be established, you will have a great recreational area,” Trosclair added.

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