Administrator keeps job by narrow margin

The Lafourche Parish Council rejected a measure to oust Parish President Charlotte Randolph’s second in command at last week’s regular monthly council meeting.

Parish Administrator Crystal Chiasson will remain at her post – for now.

The ouster fell short by one vote – 6-3 – with councilmen Matt Matherne, L. Phillip Gouaux, Daniel Lorraine, Louis Richard, Joe Fertitta and Lindel Toups voting to remove Chiasson.

According to the Home Rule Charter, seven votes are needed to release a parish department head.

Toups drafted the resolution, arguing “the parish is not moving forward.”

“This is my fourth term, and the administration should be doing more to move the parish ahead,” he said. “We have done less work in the last year than we have in my 16 years on the council.”

Toups argued that Chiasson was not qualified to be an administrator. He suggested removing her from the job and reassigning her to another department.

Randolph fired back, saying Toups’ resolution was drafted after she fired former parish Public Works Director Ronald Robichaux earlier this month.

“This is retaliation for Mr. Robichaux,” Randolph said. “The council has been saying that I should enforce the Home Rule Charter – well, employees fall under the guidelines of the parish president. The council’s job is to make laws and represent the people in their district.

“The one thing I have heard from the council over and over again was that their work orders were not being done. And, if they are not being done, then something needs to change,” she continued. “We found the money to streamline a program to get the work orders done. That’s what you wanted and that’s what you got. And, you got the hard work from Crystal.”

However, Fertitta said the attempt to remove Chiasson was not vindictive – it was based on job performance. The councilman did not specify how Chiasson had failed to do the job.

Councilman Rodney Doucet, who voted in favor of keeping Chiasson in place, suggested that an unclear job description may be to blame for perceived problems.

“Each day presents a different challenge,” Chiasson told the council in her own defense. “I work alongside Mrs. Randolph, and I work with risk management. In the past, I have worked with some projects in DPW, but the administration is now taking over that duty.”

The parish administrator is also responsible for negotiating and preparing contracts, hiring attorneys, appraisers, architects and engineers, negotiating the purchase and sale of parish buildings and preparing resolutions for the parish council’s agenda.

In addition, the position requires overseeing the parish’s departments of Finance, Grants, Economic Development, Human Resources, Coastal Zone Management, Public Works, Community Services, Buildings, Maintenance and Recreation.

“When something goes wrong, they go to Crystal,” Randolph said. “She works with them to solve it. Everything doesn’t have to come to me. Crystal is a great asset to this administration. We are lucky to have her.”

Speaking before the council, Thibodaux pastor Duane Bland called Chiasson an asset to the parish and the community.

“I am a witness to the long hours she works,” Bland said. “There are times that we go to her home, and she has to put away her work to spend time with family and visitors. Sometimes, her children are at our house because she has to work late. She gives up a lot of the parish.”

Following last week’s council meeting, Chiasson said, “We all work so hard for the residents of Lafourche Parish. We love our jobs and helping people, we work diligently to follow the laws and serve our residents.

“So many people want this to go away so we can work peacefully and continue to move this parish forward,” she continued. “I saw employees get very emotional at the meeting, and even the day after work with tears of joy.

“We are happy to serve Lafourche – so to go backwards now is just not an option. We are set on being positive and getting back to work,” she added. “God is in control, he gave me strength and took me through this and he will uphold me and this parish.”

Crystal Chiasson – Lafourche Parish administrator