CLINTON — The East Feliciana Parish Police Jury voted 6-2 Monday to hire Joni Stone to fill a vacancy in the jury's Building Permit Department after parish Assessor Jeff Gardner verbally outlined his reasons for questioning Stone's appointment.
A move to hire Stone on Feb. 20 got sidetracked when jurors said they had received phone calls from a parish official who made allegations against Stone.
The jurors did not specify the nature of the allegations or identify who made them, but over two successive meetings, one of which became heated, Gardner's identity became evident.
The assessor said someone called a parish landowner in April 2017, saying the person's taxes would increase if the landowner sold a portion of their property to an adjoining landowner.
The call came during a Planning and Zoning Commission controversy over the property for a proposed agricultural cooperative on Plank Road in Clinton.
Gardner said he told the landowner the taxes would not increase and said he set out to determine who made the call, eventually developing two or three possible people involved in what he considered to be misrepresenting or impersonating a jury or Assessor's Office official.
The assessor said he brought his concerns about someone misrepresenting a public official to a May 10, 2017, Executive Committee but suspended his investigation when a Planning and Zoning Commission member resigned.
The member, whom Gardner did not name, was one of the possible suspects, he said.
The issue arose again on Feb. 20 when Gardner said he learned that Stone, whom Gardner also suspected of being involved in the phone call, was in line for the permit technician's job.
The assessor said he called seven of the nine jurors to discuss his concerns and on Feb. 21 brought a complaint against Stone to the Sheriff's Office. He said investigators asked him not to attend any jury meetings.
Although some jurors knew why he did not attend the meetings of Feb. 23 or Feb. 27, Gardner said statements were made about him not attending but no one extended him the professional courtesy of explaining his absence.
Gardner said he met with investigators on Feb. 27 and was told Stone admitted making the call but denied representing herself as anyone other than herself. The Sheriff's Office will issue a report stating she had not "committed the crime of impersonating a public official," Gardner said.
Jury President Louis Kent apologized to Gardner for any misunderstanding about Gardner that jurors may have caused.
Jurors Dwight Hill, Michael Cheatham, Jason McCray, Chris Hall, Glen Kent and Keith Mills voted to hire Stone to the $15.39-per hour position, while Ed Brooks and Sean Smith dissented. Louis Kent typically does not vote except to break a tie.