Caddo Parish Leaders Want to Continue Zoom Meetings
Some Caddo Parish Commissioners are not happy about a state law that requires in-person public meetings for governmental bodies unless the business is an emergency or COVID related. There has even been some discussion about filing a lawsuit over this issue.
SB 466 outlines what is allowed during a Zoom meeting. This can only be done for emergencies or business that is related to COVID-19 or something that is time-sensitive. The regular business of governmental entities must be done in person under this law which Governor Edwards signed.
But a federal judge ruled Monday that the City of Alexandria must make accommodations for 98-year-old Councilman Harry Silver to attend meetings virtually. But Silver's lawsuit was not against the State. But the suit was heard in the Western District of Louisiana and most legal experts believe this would also cover the concerns of Caddo Parish Commissioners.
Here is some of the local discussion about challenging the state law on open meetings.
Commissioner John Paul Young said, "if it does limit our ability irrationally, I would like to challenge it in court."
Ken Epperson responded "Amen"
Commissioner Steven Jackson also talked about legal action:
We would seek to file a legal motion in federal court. I think that this violates the voting rights of individuals who have elected local officials to represent them. I am not going to disenfranchise the people in Districts 12 (Epperson) and 5 (Burrell) simply because those Commissioners can not make it to in person meetings. I think that violates the voting rights of their constituents because they will not have equal and fair representation. And I think the state law, on its face violates the United States Constitution.
But KEEL News spoke with Commissioner Jackson after the meeting and he told us he did not have knowledge of the Alexandria case until after the Commission meeting. So he does not support legal action at this time. He believes this ruling will allow the parish to continue to hold Zoom meetings.
This is part of the ruling in the Alexandria case:
Act No. 302 of the 2020 Regular Session. While the new language is not mandatory to bodies like the Council, it authorizes during the pandemic, that things like the request made my Mr. Silver are not to be taken at odds with the Open Meetings Laws. As the Governor has wisely recognized, and the Legislature has affirmed, these times of the COVID-19 pandemic are extraordinary in their impact. These changes also recognize the need to be reliant upon all the tools we have, and especially the technology, so long as we continue to respect the need for fair and open governance. We thus find no substantial negative impact on the operation of city government by the granting of injunctive relief. Compliance will only require minimal logistical setup to effect and preserve the open meetings aspect of Louisiana's laws.