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D.A., Pres. & Council fail to reach St. John coastal consensus

LAPLACE — A festering dispute involving the highest branches of St. John the Baptist Parish government has been put on hold again, this time until at least May.

The Parish Council, by a 7-2 vote last week and without discussion, supported Councilman Marvin Perrilloux’s motion to table adoption of the St. John the Baptist Parish Coastal Management Plan.

It marked the third consecutive regular Council meeting in which the proposed ordinance was tabled.

Perrilloux said he would like the opportunity to meet with District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut, who had been present at the previous two meetings but did not attend the most recent meeting.

Council members Jaclyn Hotard and Julie Remondet opposed Perrilloux’s motion.

The issue has created what is seemingly becoming a burgeoning political wedge between Dinvaut and Parish President Natalie Robottom. For the past several meetings, Robottom has been pushing adoption of the plan, which, she maintains, creates funding opportunities for the parish.

However, Dinvaut has been emphatic in her stance that by adopting the plan the parish loses out on an opportunity to file an independent lawsuit against the big oil companies for coastal damages. She said if the parish adopted the plan, then St. John would effectively be lumped in what amounts to a class action lawsuit filed by several parishes, thus potentially reducing the amount of damages.

When addressing the Council Feb. 21, Robottom countered that argument and added the parish’s proposed coastal management plan is structured in a way that best protects and ensures any damages that might be due to St. John.

During the Feb. 7 meeting, councilman Michael Wright proposed a workshop with all of the parties in an attempt to reach a compromise. Robottom said several attempts were made to schedule the proposed workshop with no success.

In previous meetings, Dinvaut said she has been consulting with attorneys who are assessing any potential damages in the parish. She has estimated the assessments should be completed in 60 days.

Perrilloux’s motion calls for the proposed ordinance to be tabled until the May 9 meeting, which would allow Dinvaut time to have the assessment finalized and presented to the Council.

— By Richard Meek