Livingston Parish charter comes under scrutiny

— With two meetings under its belt, the commission created to consider changes to Livingston Parish’s Home Rule Charter soon will dive into discussions about separation of powers and the Parish Council’s authority.

The 10-member commission also will consider during its Jan. 28 meeting selecting a lawyer to review the group’s recommendations to ensure they comply with state and federal law.

Commissioners agreed Tuesday to set a May 6 deadline for submitting their recommendations to the Parish Council. The goal is to give the council two months to review and discuss the recommendations and decide which should be placed on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The deadline for submitting propositions for the November ballot is July 23, said Jimmy Durbin, Denham Springs mayor and chairman of the charter review commission.

The group will review the charter section-by-section, beginning with Articles I and II on Jan. 28.

Article I establishes the parish’s form of government and broadly defines its general and special powers. Article II focuses specifically on the Parish Council, its meeting rules and compensation, the procedures for enacting an ordinance, and certain specified powers such as taxation and investigation.

Commission members debated Tuesday whether to find their own attorney to review their recommended changes to the charter.

Councilman Chance Parent, who attended the commission meeting, said it might be a conflict of interest for parish legal adviser Christopher Moody to give the commission advice because his role in parish government will be one of the commission’s points of focus.

Durbin said he was confident in Moody’s ability to give sound advice, but commission members Bridgette Rushing and Earl Price said they would be more comfortable with outside counsel.

Commissioner Rick Ramsey, who serves as mayor of Walker, said he has no problem with Moody, who has represented the city in several legal matters. However, he said, seeking outside counsel might reassure the public that an unbiased person is overseeing the process.

Commission members agreed to seek a lawyer who would volunteer for the job in order to save the parish money.

The commission meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first and fourth Tuesdays of each month in the Council Chambers, 20355 Government Blvd., Livingston.