Another lawsuit filed against council over Aviation Board nominee

February 07, 2014 at 8:56 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The St. Charles Parish Council is facing a lawsuit from former New Orleans Aviation Board nominee Neal Clulee.

The focus of the lawsuit, which was filed on Jan. 17, is the council’s unanimous decision to nominate Gary Smith Sr. to the New Orleans Aviation Board during the Jan. 6 council meeting.

Clulee claims the council violated several state laws regarding parliamentary procedue during Smith’s nomination.The lawsuit says the council did not identify the motion they were taking up, did not identify the matter in the agenda and deviated from the agenda to take up the motion.

In addition, Clulee’s lawsuit points out that Smith’s name was not mentioned until the end of the council meeting after a vote had been taken.  

“Absolutely no public comment was called or permitted regarding the resolution itself,” the lawsuit reads.

Due to the alleged lack of public discussion, Clulee claims Smith’s nomination was a violation of the “open meetings law.”

“The actions taken by the St. Charles Council in taking up a matter not on the agenda was a subterfuge to defeat the purpose of the open meetings law,” the lawsuit reads.

Council Chairwoman Julia Fisher-Perrier said all actions taken by the council in the meeting were in accordance with the law.  

“This looks to be very technical. We were advised when we went into the process by the legal department that everything we were doing was done lawfully and legally and that resolutions do not require public hearing. It is stated clearly in our rules,” she said.

In the lawsuit, Clulee requests that Smith’s appointment be voided, a $100 civil penalty be levied against all council members who participated in the meeting, and to be compensated the legal costs and attorney fees he paid in the filing of the lawsuit.

Clulee has long been a controversial figure in the parish’s quest to find a new appointee to the New Orleans Aviation Board.

After being nominated as St. Charles Parish’s appointee to the New Orleans Aviation Board in 2011, Clulee’s nomination was twice vetoed by Parish President V.J. St. Pierre.

After overriding St. Pierre’s veto, the council and Clulee found another obstruction in New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who objected to only one nominee being submitted to the Aviation Board and instead asked for three people to choose from.

The New Orleans City Council later voted down one attempt to circumvent Landrieu’s rejection of Clulee as the appointee and tied in another vote on the matter.

The dispute led to an ongoing lawsuit between St. Charles Parish and the City of New Orleans about the terms of the airport contract. In addition, Clulee filed a lawsuit of his own for defamation against St. Pierre.

After more than two years without an appointee on the board, Smith was nominated just prior to the announcement of a $826 million construction plan for a new terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport.  

View other articles written Kyle Barnett

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