Pointe Coupee jurors rescind deal on suit over records

The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury has rescinded its previous decision to settle out of court a public records lawsuit filed against the parish administrator, public utilities director and the jury’s president.

The jury decided instead to give the three officials the green light to fight the allegations lodged against them in the suit by Police Juror Justin Cox.

The jury’s 7-3-1 vote Tuesday night to renege on its April 9 decision to pay Cox’s $1,500 attorney fees in regard to the lawsuit was made after jurors met behind closed doors — without Cox — during Tuesday night’s regular meeting. Voting no were Jurors Kurt Jarreau, Albert Dukes and Glen Ray Cline. Cox abstained.

The jury’s action came after President Melanie Bueche read a letter from the attorney representing the officials named in Cox’s lawsuit aloud during the open portion of Tuesday night’s meeting.

In the April 17 letter, Baton Rouge attorney Leo Hamilton wrote that Bueche and Parish Administrator Jim Bello had met with him after the jury’s April 9 vote and had presented several state attorney general’s opinions suggesting they could win the court’s favor in the lawsuit.

Cox filed the lawsuit in 18th Judicial District Court on April 2, alleging parish officials violated the state’s public records laws because the officials refused to release accurate documents Cox had requested regarding outstanding residential utility accounts.

Cox said previously he was asked to back off on the lawsuit after a judge told him it was clear the parish had violated the state’s public records laws. Cox also said the parish’s Utilities Department finally released the information he wanted after the lawsuit was filed.

Jarreau tried to block the jury’s action Tuesday night by offering up a substitute motion to accept the jury’s original decision.

“I think to keep sitting here contemplating to misspend taxpayers’ money out of pure spite is just absolutely ridiculous,” Jarreau said.

But Jarreau’s substitute motion failed, 7-3.

Other matters the jury considered Tuesday night included:

LETTER OF RESIGNATION: Juror Russell Young told jurors he doesn’t plan to resign from the jury after all and tore up his letter of resignation.

According to the jury’s agenda, Young was set to walk away from the Police Jury on June 15.

“I ran, and I’m going to stay,” Young said. “I had a dream last night that a couple of guys on the jury would be too happy to see me walk away.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Young indicated his desire to step away from public office was influenced by recent charges made against him by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

According to court documents, the board asserts Young had not filed campaign finance reports to the board in 2009 and 2010.