Division stunts coastal management plan

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, February 15, 2017

LAPLACE — Parish Council members moved to schedule a workshop last week in hopes of coming to an agreement on a Coastal Management Plan, something that has created a divide between the St. John the Baptist Parish’s administration and district attorney’s office.

Parish Council members tabled action on an ordinance Feb. 7 after seeing a lack of consensus on the issue with Parish President Natalie Robottom and District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut.

At the center of the dispute is a proposed Coastal Management Plan and how it might impact a potential lawsuit against the oil industry.

Dinvaut claims that if the Parish Council adopts the plan, her office, which has been working with attorneys recommended by the governor’s office for nearly 10 months, would effectively be left on the sideline regarding potential litigation, with the responsibility shifting to Robottom and her office.

The D.A. added her office is consulting with the attorney to determine what, if any, damages to which the parish may be entitled.

She is asking the council for a 60-day window to complete those assessments.

The parish president refutes Dinvaut’s claim, saying even if the Council adopts the plan, it would still be up to them to decide who they would want to represent them in any lawsuit, whether it’s class-action litigation with other parishes or a single lawsuit brought by St. John the Baptist

A debate ensued during Feb. 7’s Parish Council meeting, with Robottom and Dinvaut disagreeing on several legal points.

Parish Council members Larry Snyder and Jaclyn Hotard each mentioned the dispute was making them uncomfortable.

Eventually Councilman Michael Wright, who said he also felt uncomfortable making a decision between two of the parish’s top elected officials, offered a motion to table the issue and schedule a workshop, where the details could be further addressed.

Wright’s motion created what appeared to be a palatable sigh of relief among Council members and was approved unanimously.

The Council workshop had not been scheduled as of the beginning of this week.

— By Richard Meek