Police jury deadlocks on lawyer ‘termination’ vote

The West Feliciana Parish Police Jury deadlocked 3-3 Monday on terminating a lawyer hired to help get U.S. Justice Department approval of a home rule charter that voters approved last year.

Jerald Jones, the special attorney working on the issue, tendered his resignation after a June 26 U.S. Supreme Court ruling nullified the need for Justice Department approval of voting changes.

“How do you fire someone who’s resigned? This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life,” Juror Mel Percy said.

Juror John Kean said the action essentially would be a vote of no-confidence for the advice Jones gave.

Jurors Otis Wilson, Melvin Young and Heather Howle voted to terminate the services of Jones, while Lea Williams, jury President Ricky Lambert and Percy voted against the motion.

Kean abstained.

Supporters of the motion, along with Kean and Williams, said Jones gave conflicting opinions on whether the jury could propose amendments or a repeal of the charter for voter approval.

Percy said Jones initially said the charter could be repealed but changed his mind before four jurors voted June 27 to put the repeal question on the Oct. 19 ballot. The action led to a lawsuit, and a district judge last week barred the jury from proceeding with the election.

“Before we took the vote that was so bad he told us not to do it,” Percy argued.

The June 27 vote resulted in recall petition drives being started against Williams and Kean.

The charter calls for an elected parish president, an at-large Parish Council member and four single-member council districts. An election is set for Oct. 19 for parish president.

Lambert said earlier in the meeting that demographer Cedric Floyd will submit a plan for the four single-member districts at the jury’s Aug. 19 meeting.

Percy said the jury will ask Floyd to state whether he thinks the plan he submitted earlier this year will meet the requirements of state law. Critics have noted large differences in population among several districts.

In other business, jurors approved the $2,727,000 bid of Ragusa Construction LLC, of Independence, for construction of a new parish library on donated property on Burnett Road. Seven companies submitted bids for the project, which voters approved in a bond issue election last year. .

The jury also accepted Parish Manager John Hashagen’s recommendation of Quality Engineering Services, of Port Vincent, to plan drainage projects in Solitude, Hardwood and Turner Subdivision that will be funded by grants associated with Hurricane Gustav recovery.