Board attorney: Text message no breach of law

PLAQUEMINE — The Iberville Parish School Board’s attorney says board member Darlene Ourso would need more than just a colleague’s text messages to demonstrate the board may have violated the Louisiana Open Meetings Law in approving a new redistricting plan Monday night.

“Text messages aren’t a violation of anything,” Louis DeLahaye said Tuesday, the day after Ourso presented the board during a special meeting with several text messages from Delahaye’s brother, Tom DeLahaye.

Ourso asserted the text messages prove the board violated the Open Meetings Law because they say Tom Delahaye admits he had secured the eight votes he needed from the 15-member School Board to approve the new redistricting plan.

Monday night, Ourso said the new plan calling for a 13-member School Board, approved on a 10-3 board vote, was devised by Tom Delahaye and his backers as a way to extend her district’s boundaries into the Plaquemine area, making it more difficult for her to win re-election.

Ourso currently represents the White Castle area.

The state’s Open Meeting Law, R.S. 42:14, prohibits proxy voting, straw polls or telephone polls, actions which Ourso claims Tom Delahaye carried out prior to the board’s vote on the redistricting plan.

“To my knowledge, eight members of the board did not meet, therefore the law wasn’t violated,” board attorney Louis Delahaye said Tuesday. “She needs to come forward with more proof.”

According to the Open Meetings Law, a person can file a complaint with the state Attorney General’s Office or a local District Attorney’s Office against a public body suspected of violating the law.

Ourso said Tuesday she intends to file such a complaint despite Louis Delahaye’s legal position.

“Mr. (Tom) Delahaye can try and cover his tracks, but the fact remains that he has spoke to other board members and he does that quite often,” Ourso said. “(He) has it in writing that he secured the eight votes. Now that I have exposed it to the public, he’s trying to backtrack, but I think it’s too late.”

Tom Delahaye, who was absent from Monday’s meeting, said Tuesday he did not speak to other board members about their votes prior to Monday’s meeting.

“I could look around the room at the last meeting and tell what position certain board members were going to take,” Tom Delahaye said. “But I was wrong, there were 10 votes to support the plan, and I texted that to her after last night’s meeting.”

Tom Delahaye criticized Ourso for always playing the victim, adding that she hides behind “self-righteous” crusades to get a sense of importance out of being a School Board member.

“It appears to me she’s more concerned with protecting her $800 a month check rather than looking out for the children of the parish,” he said. “She should be prepared to run in any district she can qualify in and let the voters decide. My district got cut up a lot more than hers, but I didn’t stand up before them and cry.”

Ourso said Tuesday several board members don’t want to see her re-elected because she challenges the board majority and refuses to be a “yes” vote.

“All those board members want to run in the districts they want,” Ourso said. “If every board member is getting what they want, why can’t I?”

Ourso also said her service on the School Board has always been about the children, not the salary she is paid.

“For Mr. Delahaye, it has been about power,” Ourso said. “If he’s so concerned about the children, he wouldn’t be bullying an adult.”