LETTER: No drainage secret meetings

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

It is time for the back door politics of Ascension Parish to be brought out into the light.

Last Thursday, Jan. 22, a subcommittee meeting of the East Ascension Drainage Board met to hash out the pros and cons of giving drainage management back to the parish president. It was supposed to be a meeting about getting the facts. Citizens have waited five months for this meeting.

The chairman of the committee informed one citizen prior to the meeting public comment would not be allowed. Public comment was not even listed on the agenda even though it is required by law to be included. A word of prayer or pledge to the flag was not even uttered before the meeting was recessed. When the five members of the committee reappeared the audience was told that a legal opinion had been given by the district attorney that they could not legally hold a meeting as long as two other commissioners who were not on the subcommittee were in the room. Is this still America?

During the recess in the back room it was reported that some on the subcommittee were discussing a potential meeting the following week in the middle of the day. Postponing the open meeting to have a closed meeting is not legal. Even meeting to gather facts, though no action would be taken, is considered a public meeting under LA RS 42 the Open Meetings Law.

Those who wish to subvert the law and meet secretly out of the public eye should beware. Doing so is considered malfeasance in office. Any commissioner who would do so could find himself in political hot water.

Entirely too much time has been spent discussing whether President Martinez should take control of drainage when drainage operations are running smoothly. However, considering that many believe our third term president has a history of using dedicated drainage funds for roads, it appears he doesn’t mind being in the lime light when the issue is about who controls the dedicated funds.

Citizens it is time to clean up the “back door politics” and push elected officials to follow the open door policy President Martinez promised the citizens when he ran for office. If we don’t make them accountable by participating in the process, they won’t do right. It is just that simple.

No more “secret” meetings. Everything in the open, please.

Cheryl Fontneot