Before Monday, the last time St. Charles Parish Councilman Paul Hogan talked about a proposed Destrehan subdivision development at a public meeting, he left with a police escort.
And not because he was looking for a quick trip home.
On Monday night, Hogan, an at-large councilman, made a point of addressing the issue that saw him kicked out of the Feb. 4 meeting, getting up from his seat and stepping in front of the podium to speak as a citizen.
There, he strongly criticized the council for what he said was its failure to follow proper procedure at that meeting, but he especially took issue with the fact the council approved a resolution allowing for a waiver of normal development regulations for the creation of a private road with five houses on it.
That resolution — granting exceptions for normal street width, cul-de-sac radius and amount of property frontage needed on a public street for the Oak Alley Subdivision — had passed the council 8-1 at its meeting Jan. 22, with Hogan voting against it.
Hogan then brought an ordinance before the council seeking to rescind that resolution at the Feb. 4 meeting, but Councilman Dick Gibbs quickly moved to table it.
After getting a second, Council Chairwoman Julia Fisher-Perrier asked for a vote, but Hogan continually called for opening up of discussion, citing Robert’s Rules of Order for parliamentary procedure.
Fisher-Perrier said council procedure trumps Robert’s Rules, though, and that she’d been advised by the parish’s attorney to follow council precedent.
Hogan continued to argue that discussion was necessary, though, which delayed the vote to the point that Fisher-Perrier asked for the sheriff’s deputy at the back of the chamber to escort Hogan out of the room.
Hogan said Monday that the whole situation was “detrimental to the public’s best interest,” and that he will continue to press for an answer on the legality of his removal from the Feb. 4 meeting, where he threatened a lawsuit against Fisher-Perrier and has subsequently asked several times for a legal opinion by Parish Attorney Robert Raymond on her decision to kick him out.
Hogan has said his main concern with the whole situation, though, is that the proposed development is a private road which would be serviced by public utilities, even though the issue of utilities wasn’t involved with the resolution.
He told the council that if they want to make a change, make it in the public code, rather than a waiver, which he said in an interview has the optics of special treatment in this situation.
That’s because the property is owned by MHI Investments, LLC, with one of its owners being state Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco), who sent the letter to the parish officially requesting the waiver.
But there is precedent for such a waiver, with the council allowing a similar exception for the Ormond Center Court street in 2014.
Hogan, though, said it’s not something the parish should continue doing, adding it would be especially problematic if the private road had a gate on it with the parish responsible for upkeep of utilities.
Hogan’s address to the council on Monday was cut short of its completion, though, as he ran out of time just as he began to talk about his removal from the council chambers.
Hogan said he intends to come back and continue speaking as a citizen at the next council meeting, which would require he file another petition with the council to speak before the body, one he’s often at odds with.
The councilman in the past has sued his own parish government over issues related to the parish overseeing the Sunset Drainage District and its removal of a sunken vessel. Those cost the parish $40,000 to defend, the St. Charles Herald-Guide reported in June of 2018.
Fisher-Perrier said in a statement she believes Hogan will again be found on the wrong side in regard to his removal, chiding his efforts as a stunt over “failed attempts to rehash items that did not go his way.”
“We are a progressive parish and should have an elected body that moves forward at the same speed. Counterproductivity is not fair to the taxpayers of our parish,” Fisher-Perrier said. “I look forward to the rest of this year in office with my fellow council members and will continue to chair this council with the integrity our parish deserves. I'd bet 8 out of 9 of our council members would agree on that."
The next council meeting is scheduled for March 11.