Judge sides with spurned Aviation Board nominee

Says council violated open meetings law

July 11, 2014 at 9:07 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Judge sides with spurned Aviation Board nominee
The ongoing saga of St. Charles Parish’s Aviation Board seat has taken yet another turn as the St. Charles Parish Council was found in violation of the open meetings law when they nominated Gary Smith Sr. to the board.

Smith, the son of Henry Smith, who was the last Aviation Board member to represent St. Charles Parish, received his nomination to the board following a two-year standoff between the Parish Council and Parish President V.J. St. Pierre over the nomination of political insider and Luling businessman Neal Clulee to the seat.

St. Pierre vetoed Clulee’s nomination twice and was overridden by the Parish Council each time. However, Clulee’s nomination was eventually rejected by the New Orleans City Council. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu also filed a lawsuit against St. Charles Parish regarding their ability to select the parish’s representative on the board.

According to Landrieu, the New Orleans City Council has the ultimate say on who is placed on the New Orleans Aviation Board and had originally asked for three St. Charles Parish nominees but only received one, Clulee.

During the legal motions that followed, St. Charles Parish went without a representative for more than two years before the council finally changed their nomination from Clulee to Smith.

Clulee then filed a lawsuit claiming that the council violated several state laws regarding parliamentary procedure 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.

Judge Michelle Morel sided with Clulee, saying the council did not properly identify the ordinance concerning Smith’s nomination during the meeting.

Morel said that after reviewing video from the Parish Council meeting, it was clear the council erred in their nomination procedure because they did not identify the item they were voting on until the vote had already been taken.

“The interim appointment of a nominee to the New Orleans Aviation Board was not identified until after the motion to deviate was passed unanimously. The failure of the council to identify the resolution with any specificity was a violation of the open meetings law,” Morel said.

Due to the judgment, the Parish Council was ordered to rescind Smith’s nomination. However, the New Orleans City Council already approved Smith’s appointment, which means he will remain a member of the Aviation Board.

The council was also ordered to pay Clulee’s legal fees.Clulee had asked that a $100 fine be levied against each council member, but Morel said that the council did not intentionally violate the open meetings law and she denied the issuance of any fines.

The action comes months after 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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Storm evacuation not anticipated at this time
Storm evacuation not anticipated at this time
As Tropical Storm Nate continues its path toward Southeast Louisiana, St. Charles Parish officials have announced they don't anticipate issuing an evacuation at this time.

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