The Shreveport city council’s public safety committee met on Mon. July 8. Grayson Boucher, the chair, was joined by other committee members Willie Bradford, John Nickelson, and Levette Fuller.
The committee’s agenda included a proposed ordinance by Fuller to transfer $75,000 to operating reserves from the police budget. The council had previously cut $75 grand for crossing guards.
Fuller and other committee members wanted to continue discussions with the Caddo School Board.
Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond and 2 other SPD officers were in attendance along with Shreveport Fire Chief Scott Wolverton. Shreveport Chief Administrative officer Sherricka Fields Jones was also at the meeting.
The Caddo School Board and administration appeared virtually en masse at the meeting. Caddo Superintendent, Lamar Goree, was joined by 2 top staff officials, 7 school board members and school board attorney Reginal Abrams who was paid to attend. Yes—11 school board officials; the city had a total of 9 including the 4 council members.
The appearance at this meeting by a majority of the 12 member school board was a violation of Louisiana’s Open Meeting Law. By email, Abrams advised that “this wasn’t a board meeting: they (the school board members) were just there gathering information like you (Settle) was doing.”
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor has a 26 page detailed review of the Open Meeting Law, with the statutes, interpretations, attorney general opinions, and a list of 40 plus questions and answers.
This outline defines a “meeting” for purposes of the Open Meeting Law as:
“A meeting is a convening of a quorum of a public body to deliberate or act on a matter that the public has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power over. A MEETING IS ALSO A CONVENING OF A QUORUM OF A PUBLIC BODY BY THE PUBLIC BODY OR A PUBLIC OFFICIAL TO RECEIVE INFORMATION REGARDING A MATTER THAT THE PUBLIC BODY HAS SUPERVISION, CONTROL, JURISDICTION, OR ADVISORY POWER OVER. (Emphasis added.)”
The outline also includes the requirement that there must be notice of a meeting at least 24 hours before the meeting.
The facts show the following:
a. The school board is a public body
b. A quorum of the board is 7—there are 12 members
c. A quorum of the board attended the public safety committee meeting
d. There was no published notice of the school board meeting at this committee meeting
e. The 7 members were in attendance to receive information on the funding of crossing guards by the city
f. The school board’s partial funding of crossing guards falls within an area that it exercises control.
Interestingly enough, Abrams promptly cut off a school board member who attempted to make a comment at the meeting.
Abram insisted the school board did not violate the Open Meeting Law.
Seemingly, Goree or a top administrator could negotiate with this committee without an army to at a committee meeting. But then, the school board and Goree have taken an elusive path in dealing with an issue that they think will just go away.