The Livingston Parish Council will have to reappoint an ousted drainage board member after discovering that state law allows area landowners to decide who they want on the board.
Charles Kemp, a board member for Gravity Drainage District 2 near Denham Springs since the district’s creation in 1994, will be reappointed to the board Thursday, just two weeks after having been replaced.
Parish Councilman Jim Norred replaced Kemp on Jan. 8, saying Kemp’s term had expired and it was time for new people to have a chance to serve.
Norred nominated Doug Bowen, a project manager at Jacobs Engineering. Bowen also is a neighbor of Norred in the Oak Hills subdivision in Watson and was an outspoken opponent of Southern Aggregates’ plans to locate a gravel pit next to the subdivision.
Kemp protested the appointment during the Jan. 8 Parish Council meeting, citing his long service on the board. Kemp said he had been given only a day’s notice that he was being replaced, but in that time, he had gathered the signatures of 25 landowners in the district who wanted to keep him on the board.
Kemp’s wife, Bea Kemp, who serves as the drainage board’s secretary, told the Parish Council that state law allows landowners to petition the council for an appointment to the board.
Parish legal adviser Christopher Moody said he had not researched the law at the time of the meeting but now says the Kemps were right and the council will have to rescind its decision.
State law provides that board member appointments for gravity drainage districts with more than 40 landowners “shall be made upon the recommendation or petition of 25 of the land owners of the district.” For districts with fewer than 40 landowners, or if there are competing nominations, the nominee backed by the owners with the most acreage wins the appointment.
Kemp’s petition gathered the signatures of owners with as few as one and as many as 400 acres in the district. The largest landowner who signed the petition was Bruce Easterly, who owns the land next to Oak Hills where the new gravel pit will be located.
Moody, the parish legal adviser, said the Parish Council will need to make parish residents aware of the law and that the council will accept such petitions in the future. The council can choose its own drainage board appointments only in the absence of landowner petitions, according to the law.
Norred said he already has contacted Kemp to apologize and let him know that he will be reappointed Thursday.
“Mr. Kemp is a fine fellow, very honorable and a very good gentleman,” Norred said. “I said I’d put him back on the agenda and publicly apologize to him and put him back on the board.”
Norred said Kemp did everything according to the law, and “as a councilman, I took an oath to enforce the laws, and that’s the law.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen. Contact her by phone at (225) 336-6981.