Under Open Meetings Law, issues discussed, voted on must be on agenda
LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board violated state law April 23 when it passed a resolution opposing legislation that would force the district to provide free bus rides to charter school students because the board failed to include the issue on its agenda, the district attorney said.
District Attorney Mike Harson reviewed the action by the board at a special meeting after receiving complaints about a violation of the Open Meetings Law.
Harson said in an email Monday that he notified the board it had violated the state’s Open Meetings Law and advised members to either nullify their vote or place the issue on a new agenda and reconsider it.
“If they refuse to do either, then I will proceed with whatever legal action is necessary,” Harson said in an email.
The board met April 23 to consider passing a resolution about its opposition to proposed legislation aimed at Lafayette Parish that was proposed by Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette. The legislation could alter the board’s election cycle and its governance structure. The agenda included copies of the resolution and related bills.
During the meeting, board member Mark Allen Babineaux requested that the resolution be amended to include another bill — this one proposed by Rep. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette — that would require school districts across the state, including Lafayette Parish, to provide free transportation to charter school students.
During that meeting, local attorney Gary McGoffin advised the board that it did not provide proper public notice that Pierre’s bill would be discussed.
The board voted 6-2 to approve adding Pierre’s legislation to the resolution and approved the resolution 7-1.
Board member Mark Cockerham voted against the resolution, while board member Shelton Cobb was absent from the April 23 meeting.
McGoffin submitted a complaint about the violation to Harson as well as the Attorney General’s Office on May 1. Harson said he also received a complaint from former School Board member and former state Rep. Rickey Hardy. Pierre defeated Hardy for his district seat in the state House in 2011.
Last week, Pierre pulled his legislation from consideration during a House Education Committee meeting and told committee members he’d file a study resolution to explore the transportation issues.
School Board President Hunter Beasley said Monday the resolution — as it was presented on the agenda — was generic and it was proper for the board to include other pieces of legislation.
Beasley said he had not received notification from Harson about the violation, but it was possible that Harson’s notice was sent to the School Board office.
“When I receive something from the district attorney, I will definitely see what I need to do,” Beasley said.