Cappiello keeps seat on Hospital BoardSep 28th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: news
Councilman Burghart Turner and the entire Parish Council held the public hearing to remove James L. Cappiello from his Hospital Chair Board of Commissioners seat at the September 22 meeting. This was the second attempt to replace Cappiello, but the motion failed, leaving Cappiello as the District 6 representative on the Hospital Service District Board of Commissioners.
“As you know, previous legislation had removed [Cappiello] from his seat on the Hospital Board,” Turner said to the audience filling the Council Chambers in the temporary courthouse. “The purpose of this hearing is to give Mr. Cappiello the opportunity to express himself,” Turner continued.
The previous legislation Turner referred to was the Council’s vote to install Nerissa Miller as the new District 6 representative on the Hospital Board of Commissioners for Plaquemines. That legislation was passed at the August 11 meeting by a two-thirds vote of the Council.
However, the subsequent debate and legal proceedings that followed challenged that vote. The ultimate questions to decide were whether the Council had actually removed Cappiello by appointing Miller, and if there was cause for Turner to remove Cappiello to begin with.
That “Cause,” though, was the hinge of the whole legal argument that took place at both the Court proceedings and the public hearing. Legally, and obscurely defined, cause is rooted in case precedence and attorney opinions based on the interpretation of such past decisions, but is not explicitly limited in state regulations.
When he was contacted by members of the Hospital Service District Board, District Attorney Charles Ballay had argued that because no specific cause was cited, and that Cappiello’s name was not mentioned in the resolution passed on August 11, that the vote should be nullified.
“[The resolution] makes no mention of a vacancy in the District 6 representation on the Board of Commissioners, nor does it remove the prior appointee, James L. Cappiello, from this position,” Ballay wrote in his petition.
And the Court’s decision said that to truly satisfy the requirement of Cause and appoint Nerissa Miller to the District 6 seat, a public hearing would have to be held. The Court also stipulated that Cappiello must be given notice, so that he could attend the hearing and speak on the matter.
At the hearing itself, both the audience and several Councilmembers were vocal for both sides of the argument, speaking to Cappiello’s record as a representative and Turner’s right to appoint who he sees fit.
Council Chairman Dr. Stuart Guey disagreed with Turner’s assertion that citing a local requirement of office was sufficient to define cause for removal. Guey cited that the Hospital Board is a State entity, and that local ordinances could not supersede that, as he felt it did in this case.
“We didn’t violate or trump the State, we worked in tandem with them,” Turner said. “We were acting within out rights [on the vote].”
Council woman Marla Cooper, District 9, referred to the fact that there is no single statutory definition for cause outlined in the state regulations.
“Every time that Cause has been brought forward, it is different Causes,” Cooper said.
She continued to say later in the meeting, “If I feel for any reason I can’t work my representative on any board, I will have them removed… and that is Cause.”
Councilman Byron Marinovich, District 8, reiterated his statements from the August 11 meeting that Cappiello’s removal was a personal vendetta by Councilman Turner. Marinovich questioned Turner directly on why Cappeillo had been reappointed back in March of 2011.
“The ordinance [you’re citing] was passed in January, and Cappiello was reappointed in March, so why was he reappointed?” Marinovich said.
After the Council discussion, Cappiello took to the podium to speak publicly on the subject of his tenure on the Hospital Board and why he should retain the position.
“The only reason I fought this is the state law was put there for this exact reason,” Cappiello said. “I live in Port Sulphur. I thought I was doing the right thing. I represent the people of Plaquemines and my district.”
“Whatever happens, I could do whatever I want, but I do this because my community needed the hospital,” Cappiello said.
When the final vote was taken, the removal failed to pass by a vote of 2-7, with Councilman Turner and Councilwoman Cooper voting yes.
After the meeting, Turner said that the Council had made its decision.
“My colleagues have spoken. We had the votes, and they changed their position,” Turner said. “The Council spoke.”