New Lafourche Community Action board touts change for ’15

Community Action officers are touting a new day for Community Action in Lafourche Parish, however they admit that lots of work needs to be done.

Work, that is, that they are excited to get to.

The Lafourche Parish Council ratified a new Community Action Advisory Board at last Tuesday’s parish council meeting spearheaded by District 1 Councilman Jerry Jones who will serve as board president.

“This is a new board. We’re looking at a new direction. We’re looking at straightening community action, and I need the help of the administration, this council, this board, so if we all work together, we won’t let 2015 catch us like 2014, so I’m looking forward to doing this and straitening the whole thing out,” said Jones.

Aaron Triggs (Vice President), Mary Mahoney (Secretary), Paul Chiquet (Treasurer) and Lt. Nolan Smith (Parliamentarian) were also ratified as elected advisory board members at last Tuesday’s parish council meeting.

“Communitywide, they have Community Action in their heart,” Jones said. “It’s a tri-part board. You have the public, the private and the poor, so they’re coming from all different ways. That’s the way it’s supposed to be set up, and you have people that are really concerned about the community, so they are eager to get it right. We want to take the politics out of it and do the right thing.”

Community Action, currently operating under the guidance of the parish administration without an executive director, lost several programs to be run within Lafourche by other agencies such as its senior citizen workforce training program to St. James Parish, its winter home instillation service to St. Mary Parish and its income tax assistance program to a program called VITA, which is run within Lafourche Parish Government but not under the Community Action umbrella, according to Chiquet.

“Another parish is controlling our destiny. It’s not Lafourche controlling it. It’s St. Mary controlling where our money is going to be spent. It’s St. James controlling where our money is going to be spent. It’s VITA controlling where our money is going to be spent,” Chiquet said.

Additionally, Lafourche Parish needy parents were not able to apply for school uniforms this year because the parish administration missed the deadline – something that would not have happened had the board had the authority to make the request, according to Chiquet.

Chiquet, who said he has served the Community Action board for about a year, said the Community Action board has been practically powerless since the parish council changed community action’s bylaws and placed it in the hands of the parish administration in 2005.

Many 2014 Community Action meetings could not take place because the majority of the members of the board did not show up. Chiquet attributed this to the board having little power.

“The Community Action board is not advised. We don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know who’s being removed from positions. We don’t know anything, and I sit on that board. That’s why the present president quit and a lot of people quit it,” Chiquet said.

The Community Action board will attempt to change that, according to Chiquet. He said it has always written new bylaws, which would allow the parish council to assume control of Community Action, and he hopes the parish council will approve those bylaws at the first meeting of 2015.

Jones declined comment regarding many specific previous issues with Community Action, stating, “We’re starting fresh, new day, and we’re moving forward.”

Additionally, the parish will advertise for a Community Action Executive Director – a position which had been vacant. The deadline to apply is Jan. 14, and Jones hopes to have the new person in place by the first part of February.

“We need a director in place to go out and research and bring in some more money for the different types of programs. There’s a lot of money out there. There are a lot of different programs out there that we could use in this parish,” Jones said.

The Lafourche Parish Administration declined comment.