Board brings Hospital Seat debate to CourtSep 12th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: news
At the most recent Hospital Service District Board meeting, District Attorney Charles Ballay issued a statement, which contested the validity of the recent Council vote placing Narissa Miller in the District 6 seat of the hospital board. As a result of that meeting, Ballay filed an junction on behalf of the Board, arguing for an immediate declaratory judgement, injunctive release and accelerated action on the matter.
Ballay cited a Louisiana State statute that, according to his assessment, supersedes the Parish vote on August 11, to supplant long time board member Jimmy Cappiello from his District 6 seat with Councilman Burghart Turner’s newest nomination, Narissa Miller.
“[The statute] stating, ‘Any member of the commission may be removed from office for cause and his appointment rescinded by two-thirds vote of the elected membership of the parish governing authority which appointed him,’ has not been complied with,” Ballay said.
Though the Council did reach a two-thirds required vote to install Miller as the District 6 Board member, Ballay’s contention is that the cause-requirement is in question.
“[The resolution] makes no mention of a vacancy in the District 6 representation on the [Hospital Service District 1’s] Board of Commissioners, nor does it remove the prior appointee, James L. Cappiello, from this position,” the petition read. “As a result of this action, two people are appointed to represent Council District 6 on the Board of Commissioners; thus creating a conflict.”
According to Parish Ordinance No. 11-25, passed earlier this year, the Parish Council has the power to determine if an appointed member of a commission, committee or board no longer meets the qualifications for their office.
“The Parish Council shall recall the appointment, declare the office vacant, and fill the position with a person who meets the requirements of that office,” the ordinance says.
Ballay’s statement, however, cited previous Attorney General opinions on the matter of “Cause of Removal,” to support Cappiello remaining as a member of the Board.
“The Plaquemines Parish Council has no authority to adopt rules governing the Hospital District, other than as allowed [in the original statute],” said Ballay’s statement. “Mr. James L. Cappiello remains the District 6 Commissioner of Plaquemines Parish Hospital District No. 1.”
Councilman Turner had cited that there is cause for Cappiello’s removal because of a Parish District residency requirement. Turner’s assertion was that Cappiello’s land in District 5, and not the land Cappiello owned in District 6, was his primary home.
“I own land all over the Parish,” Cappiello said in a later statement. “There is no law against that.”
Cappiello’s current homestead exemption is filed in District 6 according the latest data available from the Parish Assessor’s office.
Nonetheless, Turner asserted that keeping Cappiello was the same as having two District 5 representatives. Turner also stated that his recommendation for Miller should be accepted since, as the Councilman for District 6, it was his prerogative to appoint a representative for his district to the hospital board.
“Whether you like the choice or not, [the Council], at a minimum, should honor the position of the official and representative for District 6,” Turner said.
And several of the sitting members of the vote agreed with that assessment, earning Turner the two-thirds majority he would require by law to carryout that action of instating Miller to the hospital board. But, as stated by the district attorney, there is no direct language removing Cappiello from that same seat.
After the meeting, Cappiello commented that the vote was conducted in an improper manner because he had not been informed, nor officially removed from his position. The Council had only directly voted on instating Miller, not removing Cappiello, according to the language in the bill.
“Even though it was understood [we were removing Cappiello], the Board wants it in writing,” Turner said in response to the later review of the resolution. “The District Attorney wanted me to clarify…now you’ve got Board members asking [Miller] not to vote. That’s the same thing as District 6 sitting out and being silent.”
“This was done illegally,” Cappiello said. “It was done without notice and you can’t put somebody on the Board without removing me first.”
Cappiello continued, “And I think [Turner] is making a big mistake. I’m a bright light in his district.”
Council Chairman Dr. Stuart Guey said that the Council has had it’s say with the original ordinance, and now it is a matter of whether that vote remains valid in the eyes of the law.
As the issue of cause remains open for debate, the recent filings and appointed Court hearing will make the decision on whether the Council’s resolution is upheld or not. That hearing is currently set for Thursday, September 8, at 9:30 a.m., only several hours before the next scheduled Parish Council meeting.