By Carolyn Roy, firstname.lastname@example.org
Words from a former employee and a motion to table an appointment to the Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commission were hot topics at the Parish Council meeting Monday. In an email Tuesday, Parish President Rick Nowlin outlined several practices that resulted in Greg Lemoine’s firing last month.
Lemoine, the former planning and zoning commission director and Parish inspector, spoke at length about what he said were “slanderous comments around town” concerning his leaving his job last month. He said he read in the Natchitoches Times about a council agenda item referring to an executive session to get a report from Nowlin about changes in the planning and zoning department “including the internal investigation regarding allegations of misconduct.”
Lemoine requested that he be allowed to be in the executive session but was denied when the council convened into the session without him. Parish council member Pat Ward-Hoover advocated for what she called transparency and said she didn’t understand why he couldn’t be in the session. Lemoine said he was a human being who was imperfect and acknowledged that he made mistakes in his former job. “But the administration made mistakes by jumping to conclusions.” He said that lies had been told to the public and he felt his name had been slandered. “Leave me alone. Stop slandering my name,” Lemoine said numerous times.
He said he didn’t like the way “I was run off” and there was nothing to warrant his leaving in his personnel file. He said the met with Nowlin only once when he requested that Lemoine’s daughter stop posting negative comments on social media about people (employees) in the Live Oak Building. Lemoine said he had been cited for many, possibly 100, technical violations for waiving fees during disasters. He said he was “helping people” and that someone in Parish Government had given a list of the waived fees to “my protagonists.”
Nowlin said Parish Council members requested at the September meeting that he update them on Lemoine’s situation at the Monday meeting. He said he was advised by Assistant District Attorney Shantel Wempren that the executive session could be closed to everyone but the clerk and council. She said Lemoine could be in the executive session if there would be discussion of his character, conduct or mental health. Nowlin said he planned only to update the council members on activity in the planning and zoning office.
On Tuesday, Nowlin said, “Only one person had the ability to prevent the end of Mr. Lemoine’s employment with the Parish and that was Mr. Lemoine. His situation is the direct result of his actions.”
Nowlin said that during his remarks to the Parish Council Monday, Lemoine make a number of statements that were not accurate. “ I refused to response in open session to them because they involved confidential information not normally allowed to be discussed in public. I had added the executive session to the agenda to provide a report on the results of our investigation of his department to the Council. I will say that issues in the operation of the Office of Planning & Zoning were brought to my attention a few months ago and my office began an investigation into the matter. “ We found that there were numerous violations of the Parish Code concerning the issuance of permits. They include construction beginning prior to the issuance of permits, the waiving of fees on certain permits and the lack of inspections and inspection reports on certain building projects.
“Although Mr. Lemoine referred to these violations as technical violations, they have serious consequences. These violations could allow for non-code construction to take place that could create a danger to the property owners and the public. “The failure to collect fees resulted in the loss of revenue to operate the department. When the situation was brought to Mr. Lemoine’s attention, his response was to justify his actions as an effort to help people who faced rebuilding or remodeling due to causes beyond their control, such as natural disasters. He admitted that he did not have the authority to do so. He also complained about the persons who were involving themselves into his department by informing me of the issues.“
Also on the agenda was an item to appoint Chris Post to the Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commission. Hotel owner Jay Sharplin addressed the council saying that the tourist commission was awaiting an opinion from the La. Attorney General about Chateau Saint Denis not paying a portion of its taxes. “It’s hypocritical for him (Post) to be on the board when they owe taxes.” Post is general manager of the hotel.
Sharplin said it was a conflict of interest and believed that the hotel had not paid tax on a resort fee it charges. Sharplin said he believed the hotel was still failing to collect the appropriate tax. The council then voted to table the appointment of Post but approved the appointment of David Gullet to the tourist commission board.
The council approved a cooperative agreement with the Natchitoches Humane Society and Hope for Paws.
The two animal groups will be reimbursed for spay and neutering fees for families that meet income guidelines. The Parish Council budgeted $10,800 of Health Unit funds for a shelter last year. Nowlin said those funds will now be used for the spay and neuter program. Volunteers with the Humane Society and Hope for Paws will screen applicants and pay for the services with approved veterinarians. Parish Government will reimburse them for the charges.