Elected official cries foul over parish government overreaching its authority
GONZALES - A parish councilman believes the Ascension Parish Parks and Recreation Department is sticking its hands where they shouldn't go. It involves a feud between the parish recreation department and a non-profit that runs the baseball program.
Following the August 2016 flood, the parish appointed a president to the non-profit. But when the non-profit elected a new president on Nov. 18, 2018, passwords and financial information were never turned over to the new president. That has one councilman concerned that this could rise to a criminal issue.
"I don't understand the motivation behind it," Parish Councilman Aaron Lawler said. "It's concerning and borderline criminal. If you are withholding funds from somebody that's extremely serious."
Lawler, who is an attorney, said he was contacted recently about the issue. That's when he started researching the bylaws for ABC, Ascension Baseball Council. Lawler said the organization is clearly a non-profit that elects its own president.
"I called the former president to get information, and I can't receive anything," Danny Allen, the new president of ABC said. "I can't get bank accounts, stuff to the website to open for registration which starts at the end of December. No paperwork or anything."
In a text message obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit which was reportedly sent by former president Byron Bordelon, Bordelon indicated that he was instructed to give all information related to Ascension Baseball Council to the parish.
"That's extremely concerning," Lawler said. "There's no government entity that should be taking away a non-profit's funds and withholding them from them because they disagree with the leadership of the non-profit."
Councilman Lawler said he personally reached out to those at the Recreation Department who insured him they would cooperate.
"My initial contact was, 'Why doesn't the parish just stay out of this?' And they said they would," Lawler said. "My explanation to them was whether this organization rises or falls it's up to them. The parish should stay out of it, and I was contacted again and told that the parish hasn't stayed out of it."
Lawler said he is concerned about the implications this could have in the future. He wants the parish to do the right thing and not get involved in a non-profit's work.
Phone calls to the assistant director of Parks and Recreation were referred to Ascension Parish's public information officer. He told WBRZ the parish works a half day on Fridays and no one was available.