DONALDSONVILLE — Milton Clouatre, a three-time member of Ascension Parish boards and commissions, said Tuesday he is ending his time with the parish advisory bodies after he failed for a second time in three months to get an up or down vote on his bid to sit the Board of Adjustments.
Clouatre, a former home rule charter commission chairman who had a controversial stay on the parish Planning and Zoning Commission three years ago, said he is working with planning officials in East Baton Rouge Parish now.
He said he told the Parish Council members sitting on the committee that vets board and commission appointees last week that he would not apply for any more posts if his bid did not proceed this time.
“I don’t want to offer my time any more. I thanked them for the time I had and the experiences I had,” he said.
Clouatre said while he tried to make the best decisions he could, he was seated on the commission with little training about what he would be facing, the tough positions in which he would be placed — caught among the administration, development applicants and the general public — and the politics that would inevitably result.
“There is no way that I can see that they can take it out unless they make it a completely independent Planning Commission,” he said.
Clouatre’s stalled effort leaves the Board of Adjustments without an appointee, which has been unable to meet due to a lack of a quorum. Council members said they are planning to interview another applicant.
Parish Councilman Travis Turner moved to recommend Clouatre for the post June 3 after an interview — the sole one for that opening — but the motion failed to get a second from other members of the Council Personnel Committee, as happened in March, council members said.
Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee, Clouatre’s political ally on the Planning Commission in 2011 who has pushed this year for Clouatre to be considered by the full council, charged the Personnel Committee was shirking its responsibilities and, in the process, the parish was losing the services of valuable volunteer.
“It is unfathomable to me how certain members of this council apparently do not believe that Milton deserves re-seating on a board in which he has already served in the past and done so with distinction,” Satterlee told other council members June 5 during a meeting in Donaldsonville.
Clouatre served on the Planning Commission when a majority faction on the then nine-member body criticized and eventually opposed parish administration plans for the new master plan, which evoked strong public outcry.
In mid 2011, Cloautre and Satterlee were accused by Houmas House owner Kevin Kelly of trying to shake him down for a zoning approval that he needed to build a steamboat museum complex next to his plantation home property along River Road.
Clouatre and Satterlee disputed the claims and accused administration officials of colluding with Kelly over the approval, which Kelly ended up getting. Investigations by the parish sheriff, district attorney and other law enforcement agencies found no wrongdoing by Clouatre, Satterlee or administration officials.
In late 2011, the council ended up removing all members of the commission, shrunk commission to seven members and appointed all new members early the next year.
Satterlee’s comments June 5 went unremarked upon by other council members as Council Vice Chairman Benny Johnson, who serves on the Personnel Committee, moved through other appointees up for consideration.
But when questioned afterward, council members Kent Schexnaydre and Teri Casso, who serve on the Personnel Committee, said the turmoil on the Planning Commission when Clouatre served was a major factor in their decisions not to second Turner’s move to recommend Cloautre.
“Mr. Milton sat on the Planning and Zoning Commission in what was the most tumultuous time on that board or maybe any board in Ascension Parish history,” Casso said.
“And I did not feel comfortable taking the risk that we would return to the kinds of dysfunction that was demonstrated, clearly demonstrated during that unpleasant time in the history of the Planning and Zoning Commission.”