At last night’s Policy Procedure and Legal Committee meeting, Parish President Gordon Dove accused me of the possibility of having crossed “ethical lines.” Dove continued by saying, “What Mr. Michel was told to keep to himself, he ran to a news media and blabbed it out.” Dove came to this conclusion because I disagreed with Parish Attorney Julius Hebert’s advice to keep information about privately held meetings and the amount of a supposedly sealed settlement secret.
First of all, absent a legal reason, who is Mr. Dove and our parish attorney to “tell” me what I should and should not keep to myself. Secondly, I did indeed disagree with our attorney, but despite that disagreement I never told the unnamed reporter (Mr. John DeSantis) of the unnamed newspaper (The Houma Times) any of the content of the meetings or the settlement amount in the recently resolved parish litigation. Despite my belief that this was indeed public information, it was not my place to make it public. Our parish president should have done so.
It was in those private meetings that I exhibited transparency to Parish President Dove and Parish Attorney Hebert that it was the reporter who provided me with information before administration saw fit. It was the reporter who made me aware that we were interpreting a judge’s ruling incorrectly. It was ultimately the reporter’s actions that yielded the transparency I was seeking in the first place.
During the course of these conversations, I was even asked by President Dove why I felt it necessary to take calls from Mr. DeSantis. My reply is, “Why wouldn’t I feel it necessary to take his calls?” I take calls from any reporter who contacts me. Reporters and the media shed light on situations about which people may otherwise not be given the opportunity to know. If we refuse the questions of a reporter who is genuinely trying to inform the public on facts surrounding the actions of the government which they fund, then we’re refusing the questions of the public.
Finally, Mr. Dove accused me of not taking care of my district. While I know that going on the attack when someone disagrees with him is merely his modus operandi, if you live in my district I would certainly like to hear from you whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the job I’m doing for you as your councilman.
Despite Mr. Dove’s opinion that councilmen/women should only be concerned with their districts, it is the job of a councilman to also address the needs of the entire parish. And, as a body, it is the Terrebonne Parish Council’s responsibility to monitor the actions of administration. This is the system of checks and balances that is built into our government at all levels. Without these checks and balances, we may as well elect emperors rather than executive branch leaders who are responsible to the people who elect them.
Up until last night, I could always attribute Mr. Dove’s tantrums to our differences of opinion. But, once he began making statements that are untrue I can only ask, “Is it because he doesn’t recognize the truth or is he simply ignoring it?” •