Officials discuss land claim in closed session

The West Feliciana Parish Police Jury went behind closed doors Thursday to discuss an abstractor’s preliminary report on whether the public has a claim to property in the old town of Bayou Sara that the family of jury President Ricky Lambert says it owns.

Lambert remained in the jury meeting with other audience members when the other jurors retired to an adjoining room for the 70-minute session.

The jury took no action when it returned to open session.

Leonard Kilgore, attorney for the Lambert family, objected to the jury using a provision of the state open meetings law that allows closed sessions to discuss legal strategy in pending litigation or cases in which a formal demand has been made in advance of a lawsuit.

District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla also urged jurors to avoid a closed session, saying the abstractor’s report will eventually be a public record and openly discussing the preliminary report “would allow you to be more transparent.”

Gary L. Keyser, attorney for the jury in the matter, disagreed and asked to address the jury in a closed session.

The question of ownership arose after the state gave the parish the road that leads to the former ferry landing. The jury recently poured a concrete strip from the end of the road to the water’s edge for a boat landing.

The family of the late Paul Lambert Sr. claims ownership of much of the property flanking the road and ferry landing. Ricky Lambert, the son of Paul Lambert Sr., has abstained from voting on several items pertaining to the property and lets Vice President Otis Wilson preside over the meetings during discussions on the matter.

Jurors John Kean, Heather Howle, Lea Williams, Mel Percy and Otis Wilson voted for the executive session, and Melvin Young dissented.

Kilgore said the only correspondence between his clients and the jury has been a letter offering to donate a public servitude between the jury’s road and the water line.

“There’s been no demand and no threat of litigation,” Kilgore said, arguing that the abstractor’s report is not an attorney’s work product.

Kean asserted that Kilgore threatened to sue the jury when jurors voted in August to hire an abstractor to do research on ownership records.

Percy also said litigation must be in the offing because both sides have hired attorneys.

Kilgore said in August the family is doing its own abstract, but said “it is clear the Lambert family has clear title to the property on either side of the road.”

He said Thursday the Lamberts and jury should exchange their abstractors’ reports.

Other matters before the jury included:

NEW HOSPITAL: Jury members voted 6-1, with Young dissenting, to hire St. Francisville lawyer Charles Griffin to represent them in final negotiations and closing a sale of jury-owned land to the parish Hospital Board for a new hospital.