West Feliciana won’t appeal judge’s ruling on charter election

In a 3-4 vote Monday, the West Feliciana Parish Police Jury decided against appealing a judge’s ruling barring the jury from calling an Oct. 19 election on the question of nullifying the parish’s home-rule charter.

Voters approved the charter by a 337-vote margin Nov. 6, but key provisions of the document will not be implemented until a parish president is elected.

The jurors, who will become parish council members when the charter takes effect, voted 4-3 on June 27 to call the repeal election; former Charter Commission member Z. David DeLoach immediately filed suit.

Twentieth Judicial District Judge William G. Carmichael issued a preliminary injunction July 10 barring the election, ruling that the jury does not have the authority under state law to call a referendum-type election on a charter appeal.

In another vote July 15, the jury set an Oct. 19 election for parish president.

Jurors huddled in private Monday with District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla and Assistant District Attorney Mike Hughes to discuss their options in the case.

They emerged after about 30 minutes, and Jurors Otis Wilson and Melvin Young moved to appeal the judge’s decision to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.

Only John Kean voted with Young and Wilson, while Lea Williams, Heather Howle, Ricky Lambert and Mel Percy dissented.

Before the vote, former Charter Commission Chairman Jack Hanemann told the jury he had made the statement several weeks ago that West Feliciana Parish was about to become the “laughingstock of the state.”

“We are. We’ve already made it,” Hanemann said in urging the jury not to appeal.

Becky Hilliard and Amy Betts, who are leading a recall effort against Williams for her June 27 vote, also urged the jurors not to appeal.

“I don’t think you’ll get a different answer,” Hilliard said.

After the appeal motion failed, the jury voted unanimously to ask Hughes to ask for a formal trial “on the merits” of DeLoach’s case and to sever it from another lawsuit filed after the June 27 vote.

D’Aquilla and Hughes said the DeLoach case is still open.

The judge’s preliminary injunction prohibits the police jurors from calling a “special referendum election” proposing the charter’s repeal.

The charter, however, contains provisions for amending and repealing it after it takes full effect.