Cemetery Board seeks records

The Louisiana Cemetery Board has filed suit to obtain records of burials at a Zachary cemetery that has been the subject of complaints in recent months.

The suit, filed Dec. 27 in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, says the Cemetery Board found obituaries published between August 2011 and September 2012 that indicate a minimum of 42 people were buried in Zachary Public Cemetery during that time period.

The lawsuit says the obituaries led the Cemetery Board to conclude that the cemetery is still active and the board is obligated by state law to investigate allegations that burial locations are not recorded and excessive fees are charged.

Carolyn Jacobi, founder of a Maryland organization that focuses on cemetery issues, last month brought complaints about the cemetery to the Zachary City Council on Dec. 11 and at a Dec. 13 public meeting in Zachary.

The cemetery is at La. 64 and La. 964 and is separate from two adjoining cemeteries.

During the second meeting, Bobby Snowden, president of the cemetery maintenance organization, disputed Jacobi’s claim that the cemetery was selling plots. Snowden said the payments were for opening and closing the graves.

Snowden said Wednesday that he was stung by Jacobi’s allegations because she, in effect, is accusing the maintenance group of theft and intentionally misleading people.

“This type of statements she is making are totally false,” he said.

“We don’t own the property, and there’s never been a charge for the plots,” Snowden said.

Since 1987, the maintenance organization has charged for opening and closing graves, but the family of the deceased also could do the necessary work, which was a custom years ago, Snowden said.

“Our main objective was to get the cemetery in some order to be able to use the entire area,” he said.

The lawsuit says state cemetery regulators are investigating the cemetery and need records of its operations in the investigation.

The Zachary cemetery organization twice requested 60-day extensions to comply with the original records subpoena, and the deadline for compliance was Dec. 26, according to the lawsuit.

The state board wants a district judge to order Robert L. Stewart, whom it identifies as the cemetery’s sexton, to comply with the subpoena.

Snowden said he delivered what records the organization has to the state Attorney General’s Office on Dec. 26 and had not heard that a suit was filed.

Amanda Larkin, communications director for Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell, said Wednesday that the assistant attorney general representing the Cemetery Board received some records.

“However, we have not yet determined if the records are complete. Thus, the suit remains open until we are certain that our subpoenas have been complied with,” Larkins said.