NEW ROADS — Accusations the president of the Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury illegally removed an item from Tuesday night’s meeting agenda resulted in a unanimous decision to review the parish’s parliamentary procedures.
The jury’s action comes nearly a month after it adopted Robert’s Rules of Order — a comprehensive guide that many governing bodies use as a reference to conduct public meetings and make decisions as a group.
Juror Justin Cox reminded the Police Jury of that Tuesday after noting Jury President Cornell Dukes had removed his agenda item without his knowledge. Cox had hoped to discuss with the Police Jury complaints he received from his constituents about the company that handles the parish’s trash service.
“You don’t have control over the agenda. You do know that, right?” Cox said to Dukes shortly after he arrived during the middle of the meeting and saw that his item was no longer on the agenda. “It was on the agenda, and you improperly took it off.”
Dukes defended his action by stressing Cox would first need to present the issue to the jury’s Public Utilities Committee before addressing it with the full jury. Dukes also said he relayed that information to Cox during a telephone conversation earlier Tuesday.
“I thought it best to at least give (the committee) the opportunity to debate the issues and look at the numbers before we did,” Dukes explained to the Police Jury.
Cox then called Dukes a “liar,” claiming the topic never came up during their telephone discussion.
“Mr. Dukes will not tell the truth if it’s not benefiting him,” Cox said.
Cox argued that he had already gone through the proper committee channels and felt it would be more efficient to discuss the trash complaints with the full jury in case there would need to be contract amendments, which would have to revert to the utilities committee before the jury could make a final decision.
“Committees are great (but) the people we serve are not happy,” Cox said. “It’s our right to come here and discuss things with our fellow jurors. That’s why the Police Jury is disrespected now. We have this fly-by-night, depends-on-what-side-of-the-fence-you-on attitude when it comes to following the rules.”
Cox got some support from a few of his fellow jurors who looked to the jury’s attorneys for clarity. But they were told they would need to review their own rules because the state’s open meeting laws outline only how last-minute items can be added to meeting agendas, not how items are removed.
“We need to put something in place so this doesn’t happen again,” Juror Anthony Hurst said. “This is ridiculous that we’re arguing over something as minute as an agenda item.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.