Letters: Could Consent Agendas Violate Open Meetings Law?


By: Anonymous

This article will open like a local issue, but stick with us.

At the February 7, 2024, Lafayette Parish School Board Meeting, all items on the consent agenda had attachments to add additional information with the exception of item 3.6 which was, “Discussion and/or action concerning committed School Sites Additions / Renovations / Replacements.” No board member pulled the item so there was no board discussion. 

The lack of specificity in the agenda item and the lack of an attachment did not allow the public to have any knowledge of what projects were being considered, at what cost, and with what source of funding so they were not in a position in ask an informed question.

Subsequent to the meeting, KLFY aired, “The Lafayette Parish School  Board has announced the approval of a comprehensive list of capital requests amounting to $16 million dollars.”

The question arises as to whether or not the lack of specificity of the agenda item was a violation of the Open Meetings law. In addition, the question arises as to how the board members knew what projects were included, how much they would cost, and where the funds would originate unless there were discussions prior to the meeting. There was no public attachment and there was no board discussion in the meeting.

Additionally, there had been a Long Range/Facility Planning Committee meeting on February 6. There was no discussion of any projects being advanced at a cost of $16 million dollars.

This coming after the board had an out of town two day retreat (which was properly noticed) at the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, is creating concerns about transparency and the adherence to the Open Meetings law by this mostly new board with a new superintendent.

Again, citizens want to know what’s going on in their local government

If this sounds like a repeat situation, well… it is! It is something that plays out every day in government. We have witnessed it and it was brought to our attention involving multiple local government entities. Just last month we brought up a similar situation in Breaux Bridge where the Council and other officials gave themselves a 30% pay raise without announcing their intent to do so. In that situation, they deliberately took action in a manner to avoid and ensure that the public was not given an opportunity to oppose their pay raises.

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Youngsville, the shining City in the flood plain, has come to be known for many things over the last year. Corruption, ticket fixing, improper use of public funds, election rigging, and of course open meetings violations. It was through a series of open meetings violations that the Council and Mayor likely coordinated their attempts to push Rickey Boudreaux from office, unlawfully removed his successor – Gabe Thompson, and coordinated a consensus to act in furtherance of the Garber plan!

Simply put, there is a widespread disregard for doing what is right! An attempt to conceal what is public information. They give transparency lip service while maintaining a coordinated effort with mainstream media outlets and paid media consultants to spread propaganda and disinformation. What? You still don’t believe your government would spread disinformation? They performed a world-wide test back in 2020, AND IT WORKED!

Consent Agenda – February 7, 2024 Meeting

As part of its “commitment to transparency,” the Lafayette Parish School System publishes its meeting agenda, minutes, and item attachments to its website. But if you go looking for information regarding this particular item (3.6) you will find that it is the only agenda item on the consent agenda that doesn’t have an attachment to review. Why is that?

It was in the fine print of item 3.6 that money would be allocated to build a new football stadium for Southside High School in Youngsville, Louisiana. Specific dollar amounts appear in media reports but not on the agenda. Just months prior the LPSS sought to create its first special taxing district on the southside of Lafayette Parish to fund a stadium. Presumedly because the money to do so could not be found. However, Don Aguillard’s Southside tax measure didn’t advance.

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Consent Agenda defined

Louisiana revised statute 42:13(A)(1) defines consent agenda as “a grouping of procedural or routine agenda items that can be approved with general discussion.” According to the Louisiana Attorney General, the use of a consent agenda is considered a time-saving mechanism permitting the public body to address several items in one vote. However, for those items to be eligible to be placed on the consent agenda they must be routine or non-controversial issues. Whether something is routine or non-controversial is a fact-specific determination left to the public body. Our elected officials should object to a non-routine item being present on the consent agenda. That would move it to the regular agenda, making it subject to debate and discussion, and voted on as a separate, regular agenda item.

Of the nine elected School Board members, not a single one of them believed that spending 16 million dollars was non-routine. Additionally, not a single member of the Board thought that the manner in which the 16 million dollars were allocated for spending was in any way controversial or would result in controversy. Perhaps that is the reason the complete list of projects has never been published on the Lafayette Parish School System website. That’s unique among every other item appearing on the consent agenda. Was this a deliberate effort to avoid controversy?

A Lack of Transparency

The Open Meetings Law (LARS § 42:11, et seq.) should be construed liberally. When there is a question as to the interpretation of a provision, the entity should provide as much access/openness as possible. It is also the opinion of the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General that the agenda must be reasonably clear to provide the public with sufficient notice of what subjects will be discussed.

Of course, the Lafayette Parish School System will argue that they provided sufficient notice in the broad language of “Discussion and/or action concerning committed School Sites Additions / Renovations / Replacements.” But of course, we know there was NO DISCUSSION. There was and remains NO AGENDA ATTACHMENTS for public review. At a minimum, it is a continued and consorted effort to deprive the public of transparency and reasonable and sufficient notice to participate. And if you think things are bad now, they may get worse.

The upcoming legislative session expands Consent Agendas

House Bill 95 which has been prefiled by Representative Mike Johnson (R 6/10) would likely result in reducing transparency in this specific area. According to the proposed bill, a “school board may take action on items listed on a consent agenda without reading the description of each item aloud…”

The fact is, at this time of this writing, over 300 bills have been pre-filed for the Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature. Very few of them have anything to do with increasing access to public records and information, allowing for more transparency in government, or implementing stricter penalties and actions against public servants who seek to obstruct the average citizen from public participation.


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