West Feliciana jurors conflicted over land dispute

West Feliciana Parish Police Jury members may want to settle a land dispute with their president’s family, but they are leery of shutting off the money to continue the fight.

The majority of the jury is at odds with relatives of the late Paul A. Lambert Sr., including jury President Ricky Lambert, over ownership of land bordering the old state ferry landing, and the discussion over several cost-cutting measures consumed most of a nearly four-hour meeting Monday.

Supporters of the Lambert family criticized jurors at nearly every turn in the discussion.

Jurors voted 6-0, with Lambert abstaining, to pay $37,500 in legal expenses incurred before and after the Lamberts filed suit to protect the family’s legal claims to the property.

Juror Mel Percy’s bid, however, to limit future costs for the lawsuit to $20,000 failed on a 2-4 vote, with only Melvin Young supporting him.

Lea Williams, John Kean, Heather Howle and Otis Wilson voted against the spending cap.

A move to halt hiring any more attorneys or experts without a vote of the full jury failed on a 3-3 vote.

Percy said he initially voted last year to hire an abstractor and an attorney to look into the Lamberts’ claims on the property bordering the old ferry landing road and a site of a boat launching ramp the jury built last month.

Percy said he assumed a report would be issued upon which the jury could decide whether to challenge the claims, but the Lamberts filed suit in December after jury workers moved barricades the Lamberts placed to block public access to the land they claim.

Jurors voted 5-1 to allow Kean, Williams and Percy to work with the jury’s lawyer, Gary L. Keyser, to negotiate a settlement, with Young objecting because he said the three jurors are making decisions for the entire body.

The same 5-1 vote authorized Keyser and Hashagen to work on an interim agreement suggested last week by 20th Judicial District Judge George H. Ware Jr., who said in court the jury will run up huge expenses if the litigation drags on.

Other items before the jury included:

FINANCE REPORT: Jury Secretary Sherrel Johnson reported the jury ended 2012 with surpluses totaling $861,188 in five of its six major funds. The general fund had a surplus of $419,828 to account for almost half of the excess revenues. The jury voted to hire Mary Sue Stages to audit the jury’s books for 2012.

SECTION EIGHT: Jurors voted 5-2 to table adoption of a resolution authorizing The People’s Workshop Inc. to apply for a federal Section Eight Housing Voucher program sought by George Turner and Lula London, of London’s Boarding Home.