District Attorney Mike Harson has weighed in on the Lafayette Parish School Board’s April 23 special meeting, saying it clearly violated the state’s Open Meetings Law.
|DA Mike Harson|
That violation resulted from the board’s last-minute decision to add an item to the agenda during its special meeting April 23. The public notice issued prior to the meeting included one resolution opposing four pieces of legislation authored by Rep. Nancy Landry, all of which were aimed at the school board. At the meeting, however, board member (and attorney) Mark Babineaux requested the board amend its agenda to include an additional piece of legislation from Rep. Vincent Pierre, which called for the school system to fund transportation for charter school students.
Despite receiving only a 6-2 vote in favor of Babineaux’s addition to the agenda — state law requires either a 24-hour notice or a unanimous vote of the board to change an existing agenda — the board proceeded with the addition.
What’s troubling with the April 23 vote is that the board received a heads-up from local attorney Gary McGoffin (who also represents The IND), warning them that they were about to break state law. Board President Hunter Beasley instead claimed the board's attorney, Bob Hammonds, had given them the green light to amend the agenda.
McGoffin responded on Friday, as did former school board member/former state Rep. Rickey Hardy, by filing a complaint with District Attorney Mike Harson.
Though Harson did not respond to our request for comment, he did speak with The Acadiana Advocate on Monday, confirming the board’s action violated the state's Open Meetings Law.
According to the Advocate, Harson advised the board of its violation and its two options: Either make their April 23 vote null and void or add the issue to an upcoming agenda for reconsideration.
“If they refuse to do either, then I will proceed with whatever legal action is necessary,” Harson tells the Advocate.
This isn’t the first time the school board has been checked by Harson for an Open Meetings Law violation, the most recent infraction coming last year during the board’s attempt to hire an insurance provider for the school system.