CLINTON — The East Feliciana Parish Police Jury on Tuesday quickly dropped the idea of hiring another lawyer for future legal advice instead of relying on 20th Judicial District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla.
D’Aquilla filed suit Aug. 7 against the jury and four jurors individually, alleging they violated the state Open Meetings Law by holding a June 11 meeting to discuss funding the parish’s judicial system without giving proper public notice of the session.
“I have a problem with our legal adviser filing charges against us,” said Juror Chris Hall, one of the jurors sued individually.
No one had filed an answer to the suit as of Tuesday afternoon.
D’Aquilla also presented evidence to a parish grand jury last week about Parish Manager John J. Rouchon, the jury’s chief administrator, giving away old bridge timbers.
The grand jury took no action on a possible charge of malfeasance in office, but Rouchon said before the meeting that he should have been told he was under investigation.
Hall recommended the jury hire Michael Hughes, of St. Francisville, to represent the body, but D’Aquilla said Hughes is an assistant district attorney.
“Mr. Hughes works for me. He goes where I say,” D’Aquilla said.
“I’m going to be here anyway to make sure you follow the law,” the district attorney added.
D’Aquilla said he represents the jury because the law requires it, but problems arise when “you buck us.”
In a related matter, the jury agreed to hold a Finance Committee meeting to discuss financial adviser Mack Herrod’s recommendations for making sure the jury adheres to the law regarding payment of expenses incurred by the District Attorney’s Office.
Herrod said state law and a state Supreme Court decision require the jury to pay expenses incurred by D’Aquilla in the discharge of his official duties.
Herrod, however, recommended looking into salaries the parish pays assistant district attorneys because the jury is apparently overpaying them. Herrod also said the district attorney should submit a budget the jury can use in formulating its own annual budget.
D’Aquilla also complained that he found $11,000 spent improperly in 2013 from a fund set up solely for paying the expenses of jury trials. He said he also was told, but “cannot believe,” that fund records from 2005 to 2013 do not exist.
On another matter, the jury accepted the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation to nullify approval of a subdivision plat for land off La. 409 that the commission chairman said violates parish ordinances.
The commission tabled the plat in March and never took it up again, but Chairman Richard Howell said the plat was filed in the courthouse showing that Rouchon, former commission member Russ Hicks and member Bart Blackledge had later signed their approval.
The three acted without authority, the subdivision grew from four to “10 or 11 lots” without commission approval and the plat was presented to the commission with the understanding that the four lots would go to owner Tommy Dudley’s children, Howell said.
He said he can find no evidence the land was transferred to the children.
Howell said the property is reached via a private servitude granted by a neighboring landowner, but only four lots may be served by a private road. Dudley could sell the lots by developing a subdivision according to parish rules, he said.