Charter group nixes powers

Aaron E. Looney

While the Ascension Parish Home Rule Charter Commission voted Wednesday to recommend changes to the charter concerning the Parish Council’s control over boards and commissions, Commissioner Terri Casso asked the commission to work towards a charter that had better balance between the executive and legislative branches of parish government.

Casso said that while she understands the history of the original home rule charter, the commission needs to move toward a “true home rule charter, not a Police Jury with a legislative branch whose powers cross the boundaries of the executive branch, tilting the balance of power.“

“This tilt of power is contrary to the mission of the charter,” said Casso, adding that the practice of checks and balances should not conflict with the charter.

“We deserve a true home rule charter, but getting one is going to take a true leap of faith and confidence and cooperation between the two branches of government as well as recommendations from this committee,” Casso said.

Casso referenced suggestions made by the LSU Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) during the last Home Rule Charter’s review of the document, adding that if the commission does not consider the recommendations made by PAR, “we might as well have not even created a home rule charter in 1993.”

Casso called the current structure “a police jury on steroids,” adding that the creation of an executive branch “makes it feel and look like a home rule charter” form of government.

“But just like steroids, you may feel good on them, but there are some serious side effects,” she said.

Casso suggested that the commission use state, national and local government models as guides to help structure the parish’s charter.

In discussing control over boards and commissions, the group voted to recommend moving power over boards and commissions away from the council and to parish administration.

After much discussion, the commission also voted to recommend removing the council’s right to overrule an administrative decision to fire an employee. When the commission came to a tie vote on the matter, Chairman Milton Clouatre voted to repeal the power to break the tie.

The commission also voted to recommend removing the residency requirement for the parish attorney position, while also recommending to officially name the parish treasurer as the parish’s chief financial officer.