By BOBBY ARDOIN
Special to the Advocate
June 23, 2012
“The airport doesn’t need a gunslinger or a one-man operation. It’s a matter of being transparent and having an advocate there saying ‘What if, why not, or how so.’ ” Charles Renaud, former St. Landry Parish airport commission member
OPELOUSAS — St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot says he will veto a Parish Council’s vote Wednesday night to re-establish a council-appointed seven-member commission overseeing the parish airport.
“Absolutely I plan to veto it,” Fontenot said Thursday. “That will be my first veto I’ve exercised since I’ve gone into office in January.”
Council Chairman Wayne Ardoin said Thursday he is confident the council would consider overriding the proposed veto by Fontenot.
Citing the parish home rule charter, Fontenot said he has 10 days to decide whether to veto an action of the council, once he receives official notification of the council’s action.
The council’s 7-2 vote with two abstentions to create another commission included “yes” votes from Jerry Red Jr., Ronald Buschel, Huet Dupre, Pam Gautreau, Dexter Brown, Gary Courville and Tim LeJeune.
Voting against were Hurlin Dupre and Alvin Stelly. Abstaining were Jimmie Edwards and Leon Robinson. Fekisha Mathews was absent.
In 2010, the council voted to eliminate the commission after an internal audit found that equipment at the St. Landry Parish Airport had been sold without public advertisement and that irregularities had developed involving the leasing of hangars.
Since then, the parish president’s office has taken control of the airport, located northwest of Opelousas. Fontenot said because of that action the facility has run more efficiently.
On Wednesday night, the council approved unanimously a 2011 internal audit that questions a $56,000 expenditure for a new hangar apparently built without council approval.
Action on the matter is awaiting further investigation by the state Legislative Auditor’s Office.
At the meeting, Fontenot said his experience as a regional director for the Department of Transportation provides him with the knowledge for handling affairs at the airport.
Fontenot said creating another commission adds “another layer of government unnecessarily and usurps the powers of the (parish) president.”
On Thursday, Fontenot said problems with the commission in the past have “proven that (a commission) historically has shown a poor performance record” when it comes to dealing with airport matters.
Two former commission members, Charles Renaud and Stephen Woods, spoke at Wednesday’s meeting in favor of creating a new commission.
“It creates a system of checks and balances,” Renaud said. “The airport doesn’t need a gunslinger or a one-man operation. It’s a matter of being transparent and having an advocate there saying ‘What if, why not, or how so.’ ”