CLINTON — The East Feliciana Parish Police Jury voted Tuesday to delay filling a vacant staff position after seven of the nine jurors said they had received phone calls questioning the character of the recommended applicant.
Jurors would not say what the allegations against Joni Stone are or who made them, although Juror Sean Smith said they were made by a person "of significant stature."
The jury's Personnel Committee, headed by Juror Glen Kent, was prepared to name Stone to the vacant post of building permit technician when Smith called for delaying her hiring until the jury investigates the allegations.
Stone said after the meeting she was trying to get Smith to elaborate on the allegations and who made them, but she did not immediately persuade him to answer her questions.
Kent and Juror Dwight Hill expressed their exasperation at being in the dark about the complaint against Stone, with Kent saying the committee went through the interview process "by the book."
Both said they did not get a phone call about Stone.
"I don't know what I'm voting on," Hill complained.
Juror Michael Cheatham joined Kent and Hill in voting against the delaying motion, which was supported by Smith, Chris Hall, Keith Mills, Ed Brooks and Jason McCray.
Jury President Louis Kent, who is not related to Glen Kent, did not vote on the motion. He set a 3:30 p.m. Thursday meeting of the Executive-Finance Committee to discuss the allegations but the meeting was later canceled.
Louis Kent said he believes Stone has the right to face her accuser and the person who complained about her must put his complaints in writing.
"If he refuses, it's a moot situation," the jury president said.
The Personnel Committee had recommended hiring Stone at the highest of the position's 10 pay steps, which Kent said is $15.39 per hour. The recommendation drew fire from former Parish Manager John Rouchon, who questioned whether she will eventually be paid more than the pay cap.
Rouchon, also a Planning and Zoning Commission member, also touched off a firestorm by questioning when the jury will adopt new subdivision regulations that have been discussed by jurors, commission members and surveyors for about two years.
Hill said the commission had started working with the Capital Region Planning Commission to develop a land development ordinance, but at some point its representatives were told their services were no longer needed.
"Then another group started rewriting it the way they wanted," referring to a commission subcommittee.
"Subcommittees don't do a lot for me," Glen Kent said, saying he repeatedly has asked for a copy of the apparent recommended changes that can be compared with the existing ordinance.
The Planning and Zoning Commission has been involved in turmoil for several years, and last month the state Ethics Board fined a former member, Ed Carroll, $1,000 for violating a state law prohibiting a commission member from being involved in a transaction under the commission's jurisdiction.
A recently released Ethics Board opinion says Carroll, while serving on the commission, had it approve subdivision maps in 2016 for a 101-acre tract he and his wife owned, contrary to state law.
Editor's Note: The story was changed on Feb. 21 to report that a Thursday meeting was canceled.