Members: Charter needs help

Clarifying the roles of Livingston Parish’s governmental branches while maintaining checks and balances on each will be the goal of the parish’s newly formed Charter Review Commission, members said Tuesday.

The 10-member commission, appointed by the Parish Council and Parish President Layton Ricks, met for the first time Tuesday night to begin reviewing the parish government’s founding document for possible improvements.

The group is seeking to present its recommendations to the Parish Council for approval in time to be placed on the October ballot.

Commission member Todd Caruso, a Denham Springs lawyer appointed by Councilwoman Joan Landry, said the group should focus on alleviating the tension between the Parish Council and parish president by clarifying their respective roles.

“I think it’s pretty obvious to the general public there’s some dissension and not agreement or uniformity as to how their duties are interpreted,” Caruso said.

However, the commission also must put politics aside and focus on the broader picture, Caruso said.

A lot of politics was involved in the creation of the existing charter, said commission member Lloyd Bee Martin, an Albany town councilman and former Livingston Parish Police Jury member who served on the original committee that drafted the charter.

Councilman Delos Blackwell appointed Martin to the commission.

Martin, Caruso and Councilman Chance Parent, who has not yet appointed a commission member, each suggested looking at other parish charters to see what works elsewhere.

Councilwoman Sonya Collins, who said she will appoint Walker Mayor Rick Ramsey to serve on the commission, said the group should ensure the charter is written in layman’s terms so that any parish resident can understand it.

Denham Springs Mayor Jimmy Durbin, president Ricks’ appointee and the commission’s elected chairman, led the group in setting an agenda for the next meeting to include a discussion of whether the group will have legal counsel, possible presentations from the state Police Jury Association and opening discussion on possible revisions to the charter.

The group will meet at 5:30 p.m. on the first and fourth Tuesdays of each month, beginning Jan. 7, in the Parish Council Chambers.