Power outages end tense St. John Council meeting

Published 12:12 am Saturday, August 18, 2018

LAPLACE — Confusion followed by outright hostility cast a shadow over this week’s St. John the Baptist Parish Council meeting.

Power failures eventually ended the meeting faster than expected. As Council members were sniping at each other and at administration officials, there appeared to be a lack of direction and even Parish President Natalie Robottom and Assistant District Attorney Keith Green Jr. were heard trading barbs during a brief recess.

Long-standing hostility pitting Robottom against the Council, and especially against the D.A.’s office, came to a head on what seemed to be benign motions.

Councilwoman Julia Remondet voiced her objection to a motion allowing authorization for the administration to execute a renewal with an engineering firm for inspection services for the Community Development Block Grant Isaac Housing program.

Complicating the issue was that a July 24 vote regarding the item was incorrectly announced. Instead of saying the motion failed, the correct announcement should have said it was tabled.

“Why are we voting on something that we voted on already?” Remondet asked.

Green, noting the contradiction in the minutes as compared to what was actually announced, advised Council to vote again to “let (the public) know it was corrected.”

Minutes later tempers flared again regarding an agreement with the University of New Orleans for a graduate student to provide professional planning and coast management services. As with the previous item, the result from July 24 was incorrectly stated.

During the July 24 meeting, it was stated that the motion had failed but in actuality it had passed, contingent on adding a clause as recommended by Green.

Green told council members the contract was not previously approved but Robottom countered that it was, predicated on adding the recommended verbiage. She added it is not uncommon for the Council to approve contracts with similar contingencies, especially those that are time sensitive.

Councilman Lennix Madere Jr. spoke out against the policy, sparking Robottom to say “I told you how the process works.”

At one point, a frustrated Remondet said the Council was acting like everyone was out to fight each other, adding, “We’re on the same team” and Council members need to act accordingly.

With tempers boiling and the meeting on the cliff of spiraling out of control, Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard called for a five-minute recess. During that time, Robottom asked Green, “Can (your office) do what we ask you to do?”

Shortly after reconvening, the lights went out, which was the first of what was to be several blackouts, prompting the Council to pass action items only that included granting building extensions for two developers.

— By Richard Meek