[StBernard] St. Bernard Parish Council standoff continues over hospital board appointments

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Jun 16 01:19:55 EDT 2009

St. Bernard Parish Council standoff continues over hospital board
by Chris Kirkham, The Times-Picayune
Monday June 15, 2009, 6:19 PM
The ongoing internal legal feud between two camps of the St. Bernard Parish
Council has escalated going into Tuesday's meeting, with one side alleging a
new set of hijinks over appointments to parish's hospital board.

The spat began at a council meeting last month, when Councilmen Wayne Landry
and George Cavignac were appointed to the parish's five-member hospital
board by a 3-2 vote. A week later, three other council members got a
temporary restraining order barring the two councilmen from taking their

The trio of Council Chairman Frank Auderer and Councilmen Mike Ginart and
Ray Lauga claimed in a court filing that they knew nothing about the
resignations from the hospital board, which were publicly announced just
minutes before the vote to put Landry and Cavignac on the board, and that a
council agenda item about discussing the appointments was an "unauthorized
addition" to the agenda.

Earlier this month the case went before 34th Judicial District Judge Robert
Buckley, who said the "motion to discuss appointments" to the board was
placed on the agenda at the right time but that there was uncertainty over
whether the agenda item was clear enough to indicate that a vote would
happen at that meeting.

He asked both sides to submit briefs on that matter, but urged them to come
to an agreement beforehand. Both sides submitted them last week.

Landry and Cavignac represented themselves in court earlier this month, and
filed the brief after a late night studying case law at the Nunez Community
College library in Chalmette.

In their brief, they assert that Auderer lied under oath in court about not
seeing the agenda before it was posted. Auderer testified that he was on the
northshore the Friday before the meeting and that he approved the agenda by

Landry and Council Clerk Roxanne Adams testified that Auderer was at the
government complex and approved it in person.

Auderer said Monday he stands by his testimony.

The dispute widened last week when Landry placed an item on the agenda for
today's meeting that laid out a resolution appointing himself and Cavignac
as members to the board. But Auderer, who approves the agenda as council
chairman, altered the item last Friday to read "motion to advertise for
volunteers to the Hospital Service District Board."

Landry fumed at the agenda change, arguing that the move sets a precedent
where one council member could stifle debate brought up by any other member
before the meeting started.

"When they get out there on the dais, that's when they decide whether they
want something or not," Landry said. "That's democracy. I'm for democracy,
not for tyranny."

Auderer said that "as chairman of the council I think I have the right to
make the final decision as to what the agenda is."

He said he also disagreed with Landry and Cavignac's suggested process of
appointing members to the board, arguing that the hospital board
appointments should go through the parish's appointments review board
process. Under that process, members of various civic groups would select
three names for each vacant post and submit them to Parish President Craig
Taffaro for review.

Taffaro would select one member for each vacancy and forward the name to the

"I think my responsibility as the chairperson is to say that we follow the
procedures," Auderer said. "If there's an opening on the board or
commission, we're supposed to get nominations from the appointments review

Landry and Cavignac, however, have argued that the hospital service district
is not subject to the parish review process since the district falls under
the jurisdiction of state law.

The previous Parish Council did not use the review process for the hospital
board because there was a separate parish ordinance -- still in place, but
amended -- that governed membership on the board.

Chris Kirkham can be reached at ckirkham at timespicayune.com or 504.826.3321.

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