The council has been quick to complain about the Mayor-President having closed door meetings with potential vendors on various projects. One that should come to mind easily is the LUS Bernhard deal. The Mayor-President having closed door meetings generally isn’t a violation of state law. However, by making lots of noise about the Mayor-President, the council has been very successful in diverting everyone’s attention away from themselves.
Timing is everything
The reader may remember that it was in July of 2018 that the Current broke the news about the LUS / Bernhard deal. All the while the public were fully engaged with that drama, they were blissfully ignorant that their Council was working on significant, secret machinations all their own. Whether the alignment of these events on the calendar were coincidental or coordinated remains a topic for a future date. Either way, the LUS sale story successfully diverted attention away from the council at the exact moment when everyone should have been paying very close attention.
Diversion active – now, on to business
In a series of text messages acquired by Citizens for a New Louisiana, that same July, Jay Castille, Kenneth Boudreaux, and Bruce Conque were coordinating with Carlee Alm-Labar and Kevin Blanchard (who would later set up the Fix the Charter Political Action Committee) about the layout of council districts and maps and convincing other council members to vote a certain way. It may be a good time to mention that Kevin Blanchard was recently appointed to a special board of the Lafayette Neighborhoods’ Economic Development Corporation, Inc. That’s the same organization at the center of the Marcus Bruno scandal, and is currently under investigation for misappropriating federal grant dollars.
In one message stream, Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux stated that he would take another councilman to lunch and “plan to specifically ask for his support” about a proposed ordinance. Boudreaux goes on to suggest that he will get the other councilman drunk and record the conversation. “Asking for his support” is a violation of a Louisiana law which forbids informal polling of an elected official, or deliberating and discussing official matters ahead of a council meeting in which those matters are scheduled. Carlee Alm-Labar “Loved” the idea.
Another flagrant violation of polling and coming to a final decision outside of public view occurred in June, when Councilman Jay Castille stated to Kevin Naquin, “if you can’t make the intro meeting [July 10] we still have five votes to get it to final adoption. Me, Kenneth, Bruce, Nanette, and Liz. If we convince Pat we will have 6 to move forward.” These conversations show, once again, that a group of councilmen were holding smaller, secret meetings in an attempt to skirt open meetings laws. That practice is called a “walking quorum.”
A walking quorum
A quorum is the number of members required for an organization (such as the City-Parish Council) to conduct business. A walking quorum is cobbled together through the use of multiple, separate discussions on Council business. Each discussion group involves few enough people to be considered less than a quorum. However, if counted together as a whole (which is what they themselves are doing) the group would be considered a quorum and able to conduct the business of the council. Forming or participating in a walking quorum is also a volition of state ethics laws.
These are just a few examples of what’s lurking in public records that will be released over the next few months. It’s not necessarily shocking that some level of scheming goes on behind closed doors. It should be shocking to know that every single one of these people have been through ethics training and know better. This includes not only the elected officials but also Kevin Blanchard, Lafayette’s former Public Works Director, and Carlee Alm-Labar, Lafayette’s former Chief Development Officer.