Three-fifths of Mandeville’s council will turn over July 1, but that doesn’t mean some departing members are going without getting a few last digs in at Mayor Donald Villere who, for his part, didn’t hesitate Thursday night to needle those on their way out.
Antipathy between some members of the council and Villere has been high for several years, and only intensified in the run-up to the spring time election. After the election, one could be forgiven for thinking it might abate.
Thursday night’s brouhaha was over who should pick an attorney to advise the council as it considers Port Marigny, a proposed 78-acre lakefront development. Council members have said they wanted Sonny Shields, a Mandeville attorney who represented the city in a dispute over Our Lady of the Lake’s proposed expansion several years ago.
But when the agenda was published, Mayor Donald Villere was proposing to hire Victor Franckiewicz, an attorney who had advised the city on a charter revision two years ago. According to the charter, any attorneys must be hired through the city attorney, who is appointed by the Mayor, leaving council members flummoxed as to why Villere wouldn’t respect their wishes.
“The council should pick the attorney,” said outgoing Councilman Rick Danielson, who lost a bid for Mayor. “We are now being told who we should hire.”
Councilman Ernest Burguières was even more blunt.
“This is like a man telling his wife ‘Baby, I’m going to pick your divorce attorney for you,’” he said.
Both insisted that they had no problem with Mr. Franckiewicz, whose work they praised. But they accused Villere of ignoring their requests and prolonging the process, pointing out that even the attorney for the Port Marigny developers said Shields was an acceptable choice.
Villere didn’t back down, telling the council it was within his power to pick the attorney and that he wouldn’t name Shields.
Instead, “I will be happy to bring Mr. Franckiewicz to the new council” in July, Villere said.
Only outgoing Councilwoman Carla Buccholz didn’t join the fray, saying Mr. Franckiewicz was imminently qualified and would make a fine choice.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter @faimon.