A district attorney has sued several East Feliciana Parish police jurors, alleging they met in an illegal session to discuss criminal justice funding.
Sam D’Aquilla, district attorney for the 20th Judicial District, filed suit Friday against jurors and Finance Committee members Dennis Aucoin, Chris Hall and Larry Beauchamp. Edward Brooks also is listed as a defendant, but D’Aquilla said Thursday that he would remove him from the suit as he is not on the committee.
On June 11, the defendants and four other jurors met with other parish leaders, including the district attorney, public defender, two judges, the clerk of court and a representative of the Sheriff’s Office but did not post an advertisement, keep minutes or record the meeting, D’Aquilla claims.
The defendants said they didn’t take those steps because the meeting was informal, and jurors did not vote or otherwise take action on any matters.
“(D’Aquilla is) saying that we had an illegal meeting,” Hall said. “The meeting we had was basically a roundtable discussion.”
The state attorney general’s website features a page to explain Louisiana’s open meeting laws. It says a meeting is public whenever more than half the members of a governmental body convene “to deliberate or to act on a matter over which the body has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power. Convening of a quorum of the public body solely to receive information regarding any matter over which the body has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power is also a ‘meeting.’ ”
According to multiple attendees, parish officials on June 11 discussed declining court revenues. Jurors said they’ve had to dip into the parish’s general fund to bail out the Criminal Court Fund used by the district attorney and judges.
On Thursday, officials pointed to several possible explanations for the dearth of court revenue — fewer arrests, the district attorney’s overuse of pretrial intervention, erratic financial support from the parish, fewer traffic tickets and just a normal ebb and flow of business.
Various officials named different causes, some of which appeared to contradict state audits and each other’s reports. Hall said the issue was not put to rest during the June meeting and that questions remain unanswered.
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