Feb 14, 2011 11:22 PM by Shawn Kline

Housing Authority Commissioners in District Court

Three Lafayette Housing commissioners accused of violating open meeting laws answer to a district judge. How did it all play out in court?
"If in fact the commissioners went into a closed setting and created policy involving the housing authority, it would be a violation of the open meeting law," Dr. Ernest Johnson said.
Johnson is representing Lafayette Housing commissioners Joe Dennis, Leon Simmons and John Freeman.
He's talking about a meeting dating back to October 26th, where the three commissioners are accused of excluding the public but Johnson says, since no policy was made, no laws were broken.
"There's really no evidence that the three commissioners violated the open meetings law," Johnson said.
"You're supposed to give some notice." District Attorney Mike Harson says, "(a notice) that gives a reasonable description- that was not done."
Witnesses testified in court, agreeing that an executive session was scheduled for this meeting and the public was asked to leave for about thirty minutes.
Behind closed doors, two of the commissioners say they left the room as well and no matters were discussed. However, Harson says no matter what was discussed, the public was illegally left out.
"They claimed they weren't aware that they had to do certain things but that's very convenient." Harson says, "the problem is if that's as easy as it is, then it would be hard to enforce because everyone could claim they didn't know about it."
"The district attorney was grabbing for straws," Johnson said about Monday's trial.
Johnson claims the D.A. has no case against the commissioners but the district court will have a final ruling on the matter Tuesday morning.


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