Council told by Jasmine can’t hire own help

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 2, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / December 2, 2000

LAPLACE – Fortieth District Judge Madeline Jasmine has ruled that the St. John the Baptist Parish Council cannot hire its own personnel to help out with day-to-day operations.

Jasmin’s judgment, given to the council at Tuesday night’s meeting, marked the end of a months-long disagreement between the council and the administration of parish president, Nickie Monica.

The issue started last summer when council secretary Audrey Millet filed a lawsuit against the council and the parish for zoning ordinance violations. Under advisement from council attorneys, Millet wastransferred to the St. John Parish Utilities Department in Garyville untilthe lawsuit came to a conclusion.

Jackie Landeche, a parish employee, was brought in to be the acting council secretary. While Landeche was acclimating herself to her newposition, several council members became disgruntled because paperwork, memos and other council business were not being distributed in a timely fashion.

“The workload was inundating us,” said Council Chairwoman Melissa Faucheux. “Plus, the home rule charter was not being followed since wewere not getting business done. We had to get somebody else.”The council was not upset with Landeche’s work. They knew she was doingthe best she could under the circumstances, but members realized she needed help.

So the council drafted an ordinance that would establish a procedure for the council to hire its own personnel.

However, the administration and council attorney Barry Landry said the council could not hire anyone legally.

Parish President Nickie Monica said he was the only one with authority to hire anybody in the parish government, and Landry was forced to agree with administration.

Landry said that after reading the parish charter he was convinced the council could not legally hire its own personnel.

The ordinance was tabled and argued over for several council meetings.

Finally, Landry suggested that a judge make a ruling on the matter and answer the question once and for all.

Jasmin’s research and ruling sided with the administration, and Duaine Duffy moved that the council reject the ordinance. That motion passedunanimously.

Landry told the council it had several options it could follow if members still want to hire an assistant for Landeche.

Because the issue involved a parish employee, it was a civil service matter and as a result, Landry said the council could request that Monica hire someone for them.

The other solution would be for the council to draft an amendment to the charter making it legal for the council to hire its own personnel and put it before the people for a vote.

According to Faucheux, the council has opted to go with the former choice.

“The administration is negotiating with the council right now,” said Faucheux, “and a possible compromise is in the works.”Faucheux said Landeche is doing a fine job right now, but the council can still use some help.

“We would still like to get somebody else,” said Faucheux.

In other business:

The council gave the administration the authority to proceed with the engineering design for culverts under the Kansas City railroad tracks to alleviate flooding in Garyville and Plantation Oaks subdivision. Thisproject has been in the works for over a year, and parish engineer C.J.Savoie told the council work could start on the culverts within 30 days after a bid was accepted. The cost would be between $100,000 and$120,000. The placement of the culverts also means the developers ofPlantation Oaks can move forward with their plans for phase two of the subdivision.

The council also gave authority to the administration to lease the Edgard Health Unit to Dr. Reginald Ross and the LaPlace Primary Care Center. Recently, the state Department of Health and Hospitals stopped funding the Edgard Health Unit as part of a budget-cutting process. With Dr. Rossre-opening the clinic, west bank residents will still be able to get medical attention.

Monica was given the authority to seek bids for a new street sweeper and three backhoes to be used for the west bank.

Maryann Francois of BellSouth donated three checks to the parish government. One check goes to help with the cost of the Christmas treelighting ceremony to take place Dec. 5. The other check was given toCleveland Farlough to help in the renovation of Ezekiel Jackson Park in Garyville, and finally a check was given to the St. John Parish Sheriff’sTriad program. Each check was for $300. Steve Lee read a letter to the council from the Fairgrounds Corp. thatassured the parish the off-track betting parlor, The Finish Line, will stay in St. John Parish. With Walgreen’s drugstore moving into the same area,it was feared The Finish Line would move out of the parish, taking 60 jobs and over $350,000 in taxes with it.

Lee appointed Elisha Clement to the St. John Parish Animal ControlAdvisory Board.

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