‘No comment’ not good enough for St. John

Published 12:02 am Saturday, June 27, 2015

It goes without saying that accepting the responsibilities of public office is a difficult challenge.

The ratio of fanfare for a job well-done pales in comparison to the ridicule and downright scorn that comes with a perceived poor performance.

That is especially true in St. John the Baptist Parish, where the familiarity of a small community combined with the hotbox of South Louisiana politics makes for some interesting political sideshows.

However, none of the above is ground breaking. Every man and woman who runs, wins and accepts public office in this community should not be surprised when the inevitable sticky situation arises that brings with it some tough questions.

However, all too many times when asked to speak on an issue on the record, our leaders retreat behind a “no comment” and some vague legal explanation that they have been advised to do so.

Give us a break. You’ve been elected to be a voice of clarity amidst the chaos. There will be hard questions. Residents deserve honest answers.

On June 19, two formal investigations into Parish President Natalie Robottom’s administrative practices were called for at a special meeting called by the St. John the Baptist Parish Council.

Nearly the entire meeting took place in closed, executive session. When asked to elaborate on why these investigations were necessary after the meeting, Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard said the Council’s legal representatives advised members not to discuss any pending investigation.

Great, I guess we don’t need to know why our board of elected leaders wants to investigate St. John’s elected parish president.

Robottom also used the same approach this month when Kevin Branch, the man sentenced to one year in parish prison, with that sentence suspended, and six months of probation for his part in the parish’s water amoeba scandal, sued St. John the Baptist Parish, saying his due process rights and rights under the Family Medical Leave Act were violated.

Word from Parish Hall said Robottom is aware of the suit but will not make a comment at this time due to pending litigation.

St. John the Baptist Parish District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut is not commenting right now as her First Assistant District Attorney Keith Green Jr. pursues a lawsuit to obtain the names of the people who have signed a petition to recall Dinvaut.

Sheriff Mike Tregre also recently no commented when asked to discuss a lawsuit filed this month accusing a deputy of pointing a weapon in a motorist’s face and saying “don’t play with me. I’ll shoot you. I’ll arrest you and take you in and think nothing of it.”

Surely none of these situations are easy to handle, but they come with the jobs.

We, as residents, voters and stakeholders in St. John the Baptist Parish, deserve more answers.

When those elected to provide a voice choose instead to only “no comment,” we all suffer. We don’t deserve a deposition, but a conversation when things get tough is fair.