W. Feliciana police jury tables vote on charter repeal election

The West Feliciana Parish Police Jury voted 5-2 Monday to table an attempt to call an Oct. 19 election to possibly repeal the home-rule charter voters approved by a 337-vote margin on Nov. 6.

Jurors Otis Wilson and Melvin Young moved to call the election, but jurors instead voted on a substitute motion to table the matter “until another meeting.”

Jurors John Kean, Lea Williams, Mel Percy, Ricky Lambert and Heather Howle supported the motion to table, while Wilson and Young dissented.

Jerald Jones, the jury’s legal adviser for implementing the charter, cautioned that a motion to call a repeal election is premature.

Jones said if the jury acted Monday to call a repeal election, “from what I’m hearing, you’re going to be sued” by parish residents who supported the charter.

Defending the lawsuit would be expensive, Jones said.

He advised jurors, if they wish to put a repeal election on the ballot, to call for a public hearing and hold a discussion on the merits, as required by the charter.

Taking that route would lessen the chances of a successful lawsuit against the jury, he said.

Seven people spoke against calling a repeal election.

Ambrose Sims, a former parish manager, said, “Repeal is a nasty word” and the vote should be on a plan for dividing the parish into council districts.

Amy Betts said, “I don’t see any reason in having to repeal this, since the people already have spoken, and very loudly.”

James Wood told the jurors that if elections are warranted, perhaps it should be to recall jurors and elect those who will implement the plan expeditiously.

The seven-member jury has not submitted a districting plan yet for four of the five council districts, as the charter requires.

Kenner demographer Cedric Floyd defended himself against complaints that he is “foot dragging” in preparing a four-district plan and getting U.S. Justice Department approval for the districts and the parishwide election of a parish president and fifth at-large council member.

Floyd disagreed with Jones on whether portions of the charter are in effect.

Jones said, in his opinion, the portions of the charter not directly related to voting are in effect, but he cautioned the jury to “tread lightly” because some parts refer directly to the parish president, whose election has not been approved by the Justice Department.

“You can’t do it in bits and pieces,” Jones said.

Floyd said he wants Jones to outline in a letter the charter sections he believes are in effect.

In discussing a timeline for calling an election for charter-mandated positions, Floyd said the jury cannot get the necessary federal approvals in time to elect a parish president in the Oct. 19 election, which jurors have pushed him to do.