CLINTON — The East Feliciana Parish Police Jury decided to appoint Donna Allen to an open seat on the board of commissioners for Gas Utility District 2, apparently ending a controversy that has lingered since December.
The jury actually did not vote to appoint Allen to the post she had held until December, but jury President Louis Kent said Tuesday he was breaking a tie when jurors deadlocked 4-4 on a motion to name Johnny Strain to the post.
Kent said he was backing Allen, giving her a thumbs up sign, and jurors moved to the next topic on the agenda.
Jurors Sean Smith, Glen Kent, Chris Hall and Keith Mills voted for the motion to appoint Strain, who had previously served on the board.
Ed Brooks, Jason McCray, Michael Cheatham and Dwight Hill voted against Strain’s appointment and presumably would have joined Louis Kent in supporting Allen if a formal motion had been made to appoint her.
The jury voted in December to appoint Strain to the commission, replacing Allen, but she objected to the move, saying the jury never specified how long her term was to run when she was first appointed.
The jury then voted in January to rescind Strain’s appointment and reappoint Allen, which prompted a lawsuit from Strain.
Twentieth Judicial Judge William G. Carmichael ruled against Strain last month but also declared the seat vacant and said the jury can remove a commissioner at any time.
A bill by Rep. Kenny Havard, now pending before the state Senate, would raise the per diem paid members of East Feliciana gas utility districts from $75 to $120 per meeting, for up to 25 meetings a year.
On another matter, the jury said it will leave the parish coroner’s budget at the same amount set before Dr. Michael Cramer took office in March. Jury financial adviser Mack Herrod said the jury had budgeted approximately $84,000 at the beginning of the year when Laura DeJohn was still serving in the office.
Cramer won the job because he was the only physician to qualify for the November election.
Finance Committee Chairman Dwight Hill said Cramer was invited to attend a committee meeting last week to present his budget proposal but did not appear.
At an earlier finance meeting, Cramer outlined a number of expenditures he said he will need to run his office, but the committee asked him to return with a written proposal.
The jury also agreed to spend approximately $2,000 to renovate a building it proposes to rent for $300 per month for the coroner to use as his office. The owner will accept the renovations in lieu of rental payments, jurors said.
Former Parish Manager J.R. Rouchon questioned whether Cramer had been approached about the building.
“He didn’t come or send a representative, so we moved on,” Louis Kent replied.
“I wouldn’t recommend paying rent until he approves it,” Rouchon said.
The jury also voted to raise the parish treasurer’s salary from $15.39 to $17.31 per hour, set a starting salary of $15.87 for a jury secretary yet to be hired and approved hiring a building permit technician at a salary of $12.50 per hour.
Parish Manager Barbara Vail, named to her post in January, is continuing to serve as the jury secretary, but the jury is planning to hire another person.