Planning and Zoning choices not an issue says attorney

Charlotte Guedry

Questions have been raised regarding the Parish Personnel Committee's use of asking five external parish residents for input on a questionnaire given to all candidates for the new Planning and Zoning Commission.

24 people applied for the position, and each were asked to answer questions supplied by people within Ascension Parish that the Parish Council felt were best suited to the task at hand.

Initially, the five people had been asked to rank the candidates and the Council would take that input into consideration when making their choice for the final seven members to sit on the new Planning and Zoning Committee.

Some members of the community raised eyebrows at hearing the ranking system may be used in the decision making process.

On both the first and second evenings of the Personnel Committee interviews with candidates, it was announced to candidates that the rankings would not be taken into consideration, and that the Personnel Committee would make their decisions based solely on the face to face interview process and the individual responses to questions on each application.

People have still wondered about the legality of the five people being included in the process, but according to Louisiana Press Attorney Ryan Brown, the process should no longer be an issue, as there is a distinction between simply asking for input and using input to achieve a result.

"Perhaps in hindsight it should have been an agenda item where the public could have voted on using these people as sources of input, however, as the Personnel Committee didn't use the rankings in considering their findings, it's pretty much a non-issue."

A call to the Attorney Generals office also prompted a similar response, with a source telling the Weekly Citizen that as the five people asked to give their input did not meet to discuss their questions, and the questions were not a collaboraion of the five individuals, they do not feel that Open Meeting Laws have been breached.