LMA executive cools Sorrento tensions

Wade McIntyre

SORRENTO – The Town Council at the request of Mayor Blake LeBlanc received a friendly dressdown from the executive director of the Louisiana Municipal Association.

Tom Ed McHugh told the council, minus Lionel Melancon Jr. who was absent, that it needs to keep its eye on the ball of public business and “work together and have teamwork.”

The cost to members if the council remains in conflict will be removal from office through the voting process, McHugh said.

Voters “just clean house” rather than attempting to determine the cause of why a council is in conflict, McHugh said.

The Sorrento council has been in turmoil since Councilman John Braud questioned whether a meeting at Melancon’s house by three council members constituted a quorum in violation of state law.

A public shout out, played out before an area television station’s camera, ensued at the next council meeting.

Tensions have continued among members over the Oct. 17 special election in which a a permanent councilman will be chosen for the seat vacated by former councilman Larry Lee within a week of his inauguration.

Former Police Department officer Donald Trabeau Jr. was temporarily appointed to fill the seat and is running for a permanent position.

Former councilwoman Troy Braud, who is the mother of Councilman Braud, and who did not run for reelection in the last election, is among those qualifying to run in the special election after Lee resigned.

At Tuesday’s meeting members appeared to be taking in McHugh’s advice.

Councilman Braud said members all want to go back to having a vision for the community.

“I think it’s something that this council realized almost immediately after the occurrences of the last meeting,” Braud said.

McHugh also explained to members that elected officials are allowed to attend social events in groups as long as government business is not discussed.

He said complaints about violations of the law pertaining to councilmen meeting follow a process which goes to the area district attorney.

In an unrelated matter, LeBlanc explained his new request form for placing non-recurring  items on the town agenda.

The form has to be submitted by noon on Monday, the day of council meetings, according to assistant town clerk Fern Barnett.

Differing from the previous form, LeBlanc’s new form requires disclosing how the agenda topic will be presented, whether the previous town meeting minutes will be needed, whether the town attorney will need to provide an opinion, and whether an ordinance amendment is begin asked for.

The council discussed but tabled a request by Braud to allow councilmen a regular time to make comments, similar to the standing Mayor’s report and Police Chief’s report during regular meetings.

In other business, the council approved an out-of-court settlement of $67,500 to former Sorrento Police Officer Tina Burd, who had filed a civil suite against the department for sexual harassment. $10,000 of the amount paid will be reimbursed to the town through Risk Management Insurance.