CLINTON — John “J.R.” Rouchon is no longer manager and treasurer for the East Feliciana Parish Police Jury, but some of his earlier actions dominated discussions in a jury meeting Tuesday.
The lawyer for an ousted gas district commissioner said Rouchon was “less than honest” in allegedly orchestrating his client’s removal, while jury President Louis Kent said the financial picture Rouchon recently painted “came back pretty, but it was an ugly lie.”
District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla also shot down talk of giving Rouchon a financial severance package because he was suddenly out of a job when the jury decided last week against reappointing him to a new term.
“It’s going to be an illegal gift,” D’Aquilla said in response to Juror Chris Hall’s question about the legality of a separation payment to Rouchon. The district attorney said the jury could negotiate a severance package with Rouchon’s successor going into a new term, however.
The current jurors began new terms on Jan. 11 but voted to name jury Secretary Barbara Vail as interim parish manager while they take applications from people interested in the position.
After Tuesday’s meeting, several jurors questioned why Rouchon was looking at papers in his former office, and they called on Kent to ask him to leave the room.
The jury voted 5-3 to rescind the December appointment of Johnny Strain to the board of commissioners of Gas Utility District 2, which serves the Ethel area, after Ken Fabre, attorney for Donna Allen, said the jury ignored its own protocols in appointing Strain to replace Allen.
In appointing members to other boards, the jury has relied on officials of the boards to notify the jury when members’ terms are expiring, Fabre said.
He also said the advertisement Allen answered in 2013 did not specify the length of the term for which she would serve, but she believed it was a five-year term.
Rouchon said earlier the gas board’s secretary notified him that Allen’s term was up, but Fabre presented a notarized statement from Secretary Vicki Stalnaker saying she has “absolutely no recollection of talking to J.R. Rouchon on this matter.”
The attorney said his research of jury records also shows no beginning or ending date for Allen’s term.
“He (Rouchon) has pulled a date out of the air, and that’s the problem,” Fabre said.
Glen Kent, Jason McCray, Michael Cheatham, Dwight Hill and Ed Brooks voted to rescind Strain’s appointment, while Sean Smith, Keith Mills and Hall dissented.
On another topic, jurors expressed surprise when financial adviser Mack Herrod said the jury should transfer at least $80,000 from the capital improvements fund to cover an apparent deficit in the jury’s general fund.
Brooks said the statements Rouchon provided as treasurer showed the general fund “was in pretty good shape, month to month,” but Louis Kent said he had just learned before the meeting that the fund may be $65,000 in the red.
Rouchon objected vehemently to Kent’s characterization of the financial statements as a lie.
“It was cash on hand from bank balances,” Rouchon said.
Herrod said he and one of his employees are working to “clean up” the financial statements to prepare a budget adjustment for 2015, but he said the bank balances jurors received do not show outstanding checks written on the accounts.