Memos fly in St. Charles

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 2, 2002


HAHNVILLE – Internal memos flying between St. Charles Parish Councilwoman Dee Abadie, Parish President Albert Laque and Public Works Director Greg Bush are causing friction among the officials about violations of the parish Home Rule Charter.

The thorny problem could likely turn into a central issue in the 2003 parish president’s race, with Abadie and Laque both planning to run.

Laque commented, “It got to a point where she finally pushed my button.”

Abadie observed, “Something of those two memos must have hit a nerve.”

She admitted, though: “I am breaking the charter, I admit that. I am wrong, but he opened the door.”

On Nov. 4, Abadie sent a memo to Bush regarding the Ormond Centre Canal, in which she suggests how Bush should advise the developer to angle a new culvert, have digital photos taken of the work and notifications by Bush of Abadie of every stage of the process.

These include a two-day notice before work begins, one-day notice before the canal is blocked off for draining, one-day notice before the culvert itself is installed and one-day notice of “any other significant construction milestone that may be of interest.”

In addition, she asked for copies of culvert specifications data sheets and purchase orders.

“If you disagree with any of the actions I am requesting of your department, please notify me as soon as possible so we may discuss your concerns,” Abadie wrote.

Abadie insisted she has the right to ask questions on behalf of her constituents, but stressed those are questions and they do not have to answer her.

Four days later, Abadie wrote to Bush regarding the Destrehan No. 1 Pump Station, and said, “I noticed that there is a bolt hole alignment problem with one of the new pumps at the Destrehan No. 1 Pump Station. Please inform me immediately of the present status of this issue.”

Abadie said this issue is vital, since it involves the guarantee of work on a major pump station, and she was concerned.

She continued, “I have requested to be informed of all meetings with engineers and/or contractors regarding District III projects. Several meetings have taken place in October where I have not been informed, as I requested. If I am not informed of any future meetings, I will have no choice but to inform my constituents of the administration’s failure to cooperate with District III.”

Laque commented, “Her constituents are my constituents as well.”

“If each department did their jobs very well, I wouldn’t have to intervene,” Abadie added.

However, Councilman Lance Marino said he is more effective by working through channels, and he said he acts through the established work-request system.

In this, a council member writes a work-request, issued from the council office to the appropriate department, outlining a request for attention on a matter involving their districts.

Marino said he writes more work-requests than any other council member, including Abadie. He also calls department heads but not to make demands or issue orders.

Bush forwarded the memos to Laque, who responded to Abadie by written memo: “Our parish charter requires that the council communicate with employees through the parish president. In an effort to work with the council and maintain an open administration, I have always allowed members of the council to communicate directly with department directors and members of my staff.

“I am in receipt of your correspondence to Mr. Bush dated Nov. 4 and Nov. 8. I cite these because these are two of the most recent that you have sent to Mr. Bush.”

Laque later said, “This is something I’ve been putting up with since I took office.”

Laque continued in his responding memo to Abadie: “It is apparent that you do not have an understanding of the St. Charles Parish Home Rule Charter and have interpreted my cooperation as an invitation for you to intrude into the Executive Branch and give directives to Mr. Bush. I cannot and will not allow this to occur.”

Since then, he continued, “She’s been doing the way she’s supposed to do it now.”

Abadie continued the major problem behind all this is the absence of any meetings being held by the council’s Operations and Maintenance Committee, chaired by G. “Ram” Ramchandran. For at least a six-month period, no meetings were held, due to the difficulty of getting a quorum.

When she first took office, then-Parish President Chris Tregre was of the mind that if no quorum was present, his directors were advised not to stay at the meeting.

Abadie’s position is that the meetings should be held regardless, if for information-sharing only.

He later added, “In addition, I take offense to the threatening tone you strike in the correspondence. With all due respect, Ms. Abadie, I also represent the residents in District III and will continue to cooperate with the residents of District III. I take very seriously my obligations to all of the residents of St. Charles Parish. That includes every citizen in District III.”

Laque told Abadie he has since directed Bush to keep to the charter and quoted the relative passage: “neither the council nor its members shall give any orders to any such officer or employee, either publicly or privately.”

She responded, “He has the right to do that; I have no problem with that.”

Laque also added, “Your transparent attempts to politicize everything done in this administration only succeed in demoralizing those who choose to serve the public,” and continued, “I am going to continue to do the best job I can for the residents of St. Charles Parish, and I refuse to let you distract my staff any further.”

Abadie responded, “This is petty; this is petty politics. Because I put my requests in writing, I’m singled out,” and added other council members make their requests verbally.