St. Helena juror clashes with official, alleges ‘witch hunt’

An agenda item to “discuss the general operating structure” of the St. Helena Parish Police Jury led to a heated exchange between a juror and the jury-appointed parish manager Tuesday night.

Juror Thomas Wicker, who placed the item on the agenda, said he supports Manager Virginia Bell “100 percent” in her new role, but he “will not support a witch hunt against any Police Jury employees.”

Wicker declined, both during and after the meeting, to give any specifics about the accusation other than to say he was referring to “different things being said around the community” about Police Jury Secretary-Treasurer Sharonda Brown.

Bell said she had no idea what Wicker was talking about and that she does not participate in gossip or so-called witch hunts.

“I have never and to even suggest that, and to do so in a public meeting, is totally unfounded,” Bell told Wicker. “All I deal with is business, the business matters of the parish.”

Bell asked Wicker why he did not bring up the issue in private or in an executive session.

“I’m saying it in a public meeting so people know what I’m saying and don’t think I’m talking behind people’s backs,” Wicker responded.

Bell called Wicker’s behavior “totally unprofessional and ridiculous.”

“It is ridiculous,” agreed Mary Jo Robertson, a resident who frequently attends the Police Jury meetings.

“It was absurd and horrendous and completely out of order,” Robertson said after the meeting. “She is a person who is always fair and would never be one to implicate somebody like that.”

Other matters discussed at the meeting included:

RESIGNATION: Jessica Strickland, director of the parish’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, resigned from her post effective March 22.

Jury President Major Coleman said Strickland gave two weeks’ notice but did not offer a reason for the resignation.

Strickland, when reached by phone, declined to comment on the matter.