Quorum problem hits Charter Commission

Wade McIntyre

After months of meetings and work, the parish Home Rule Charter Commission is struggling at the finish line.

For the second time in January, the commission was unable to convene and conclude its report to be presented to the Parish Council because not enough members showed up for the meeting.

The commission also lacked a quorum on Jan. 27, and meetings have had to be rescheduled during the month in futile attempts to get enough members to attend and wrap up the commission’s business.

Six of the eight volunteer commissioners showed up Tuesday night, then disbanded in frustration, one member short of a quorum.

The all-volunteer commission was convened at the request of Parish President Tommy Martinez last summer.

Member Red Loupe’s mother was very ill and he had to leave town, member Robert Poche said Thursday, leaving members unable to conduct their business.

Commission Chairman Milton Clouatre said the commission can complete its work in two more meetings, then convene again to verify the legal presentation of that work by parish attorneys.

The council has until April 1 complete its charge, which involves reviewing the charter and suggesting changes for the council to consider and vote on.

At stake are potential changes in the Home Rule Charter that must be approved on a ballot by voters.

The commission started with 12 members, but has been operating for most of its existence with eight members after some of the original group and replacements dropped out, Clouatre said.

“I’m a little disappointed that some of the appointees didn’t stay on and replacements not appointed,” Clouatre said.

Reappointing someone to the commission at this late date in the commission’s work would be unfair to the appointee, Clouatre said, as the new member would have difficult time getting up to speed on the charter.

“The replacements should have been made earlier,” Clouatre said. “As a whole we are doing a good job, all trying to do what is best for the parish.”

Parish President Tommy Martinez appoints two members to the commission, and each parish councilman appoints one.

One overall goal of the commission is to eliminate the crossed boundary lines between the legislative and administrative departments of parish government that currently remain from the days when Ascension government operated as a Police Jury, Clouatre said.

The hottest issue based on public input, the chairman said, is whether the number of parish councilmen should be reduced, and the commission is considering the matter.

Poche said the group is prepared to finish up its work, “but can’t do business without a quorum.”