East Ascension Drainage meeting turns testy, member exits virtual call

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Ascension Parish Council members Alvin "Coach" Thomas, Joel Robert, and Corey Orgeron are shown during the July 1 meeting at the courthouse in Donaldsonville.

During the Aug. 9 East Ascension Drainage Board meeting, member Joel Robert announced he would be leaving the Zoom call after a disagreement over acceptance of the minutes.

The meeting turned tense early as District 4's Corey Orgeron accused District 2's Robert of "making false accusations" in public.

Orgeron said he never drafted a document for the proposed contract of Bill Roux, who would serve as interim chief executive officer over East Ascension Drainage.

"You have no evidence, but you're out there telling people I personally drafted those documents. I did not," Orgeron said.

He then added that Robert's family property has received "thousands of dollars worth of parish assets over the last couple of months." Orgeron was referring to reports of parish dump trucks delivering spoil material from the New River dredging project to property owned by Robert's father.

"If you want to start an investigation, we need to investigate that, pal," Orgeron said.

While Chair Dempsey Lambert was absent due to a technical problem, Chase Melancon came in to serve as chair. During that period, the board approved the minutes of the previous three meetings.

District 7's Aaron Lawler offered a clarification that the minutes of a meeting are simply a recording procedure.

"It has nothing to do with the validity or the effectiveness of what's passed at the meeting," Lawler said.

Later in the meeting, Robert said he was not able to log-in to the meeting. He said he objected to the acceptance of the minutes prior to losing connection.

"Shouldn't I be able to vote in that? If we had a roll call vote?" Robert asked.

Lawler said going back and voting "sets a bad precedence."

When Lambert moved on with the agenda, Robert said he was going to "exit this joke of a meeting on purpose this time."

Moments later, Robert could be heard saying "recall Aaron Lawler!"