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Residents sue Lafayette Parish Council over alleged ‘walking quorum,’ violating Open Meetings Law

Lawsuit claims council violated Open Meetings Law during Library Board appointment
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Posted at 12:38 PM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 15:33:05-04

LAFAYETTE, La. — Two Lafayette Parish residents have filed a lawsuit alleging that several members of the Lafayette Parish Council may have held a “walking quorum” in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law when making an appointment to the Library Board before the Feb. 9 meeting.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in the 15th Judicial District Court by Lessie LeBlanc-Melancon and Dominique Ducote against the Lafayette Consolidated Government, Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory and several members of the Lafayette Parish Council, including Kevin Naquin, Joshua Carlson, John Guillbeau and Bryan Tabor.

Councilman Abraham "AB" Rubin, Jr. is the only councilmember not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that LeBlanc-Melancon and Ducote were denied the right of bringing a camera into a public meeting and a majority or “walking quorum” of the councilmembers decided on the appointment of someone to the Lafayette Public Library Board of Control prior to the public meeting held on Feb. 9, meeting of the Lafayette Parish Council.

A "walking quorum" is defined as a "device used to circumvent the Open Meetings Law so as to allow a quorum of a public body to discuss an issue through the use of multiple discussions of less than a quorum" according to an attorney general’s opinion and does not comply with the Open Meetings Law.

During that meeting, the Lafayette Parish Council voted to appoint Robert L. Judge, Jr. to the Lafayette Parish Library Board of Control for the remainder of an unexpired five-year term, through Sept. 30, 2025.

The lawsuit alleges that Carlson, Tabor and Guilbeau violated the Open Meetings Law when they successfully voted to elect Judge to the Board of Control because they had previously discussed Judge’s appointment to the board in private with a board majority present and had made the decision to team up in support of Judge at least a week before the council meeting.

Tabor, Carlson and Guilbeau voted for Judge. However, Naquin voted for Christie Maloyed while Rubin voted for Andre Breaux.

The lawsuit claims this is considered a “walking quorum” under the Open Meetings Law and the action must be nullified, which would include reversing the council’s appointment of Judge to the Board of Control.

The lawsuit also claims that Leblanc-Melancon was denied from bringing a camera into the Feb. 9 meeting just before it began.

According to the lawsuit, Leblanc-Melancon had a Nikon DSLR camera in her possession, and was forced to return her camera to her vehicle before she was allowed inside the building. The lawsuit states that security advised her that the new rule had been issued solely as a verbal directive about a month prior.

The lawsuit cites a later statement from LCG Chief Communications Officer Jamie Angelle that blamed the issue on a miscommunication due to upcoming changes to LCG security policy.

The Attorney General’s Office investigated a similar issue inJuly 2019 regarding members of the Lafayette City-Parish Council and officers of the Fix the Charter campaign discussing an upcoming vote on the precinct maps through text messages.

KATC reached out to the attorney general's office to see if they had received any complaints about this alleged violation of the Open Meetings Law, which responded that it's an ongoing investigation.

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