Lafourche disputes deeper than charter

The third time is a charm in Lafourche Parish, it seems.

In its seemingly never-ending attempt to micromanage parish government, the Lafourche Parish Council is seeking a higher power – parish voters – to gain firing power from the parish president.

On Oct. 2, 2010, voters will be asked – for the second time – to tweak the parish’s Home Rule Charter. At issue once again is the “two-thirds plus one” required vote for the council to legally fire a department head.

In 2004, voters approved the current policy, which forces councilmen looking to oust an administrator to get the backing of seven fellow councilmen. The super majority was carefully considered to avoid the political tug-of-war in which the council and parish president are now embroiled, according to former councilman Mark Atzenhoffer.

Atzenhoffer chastised council members for insisting on the change, even after voters have twice rejected the idea that six votes can send a member of the parish president’s team packing.

“If you really want to fire a department head, get the seven votes,” he said. “You have to make your case to six other members…”

That may be the single-most reasonable argument to come out of a Lafourche Parish council meeting in some time.

The effort to undermine this administration’s day-to-day handling of parish government’s affairs is the stuff Louisiana politics is infamous for. Two candidates face off. One loses and then vows to politically undo the winner.

One visit to a Lafourche council meeting in progress and it’s hard to miss the tension. Councilman Daniel Lorraine, who unsuccessfully ran against Randolph in her bid for re-election, is the driving force behind the proposed charter change.

And the change comes on the heels of his unsuccessful bid to have parish administrator Crystal Chiasson fired. The ouster fell short by one vote. The magic number: 6.

Lorraine has vowed to travel the parish informing voters of the council’s need to be able to have complete hiring and firing control over all parish workers. It’s time that could probably be better spent doing the people’s business.