People of good will can differ about the merits of a redistricting plan recently approved by the Iberville Parish School Board.
But those merits should be discussed in full view of the public, which has a legal right to see the work of government in an open forum.
That’s why we’re disturbed by allegations made by Iberville Parish School Board member Darlene Ourso that votes in favor of the plan might have been arranged outside of public view.
The Louisiana Open Meetings Law prohibits proxy voting, straw polls or telephone polls among members of a public body. Such tactics allow important issues to be decided outside of public meetings of these bodies. That’s a disservice to the public that government officials are supposed to serve.
The Iberville Parish School Board voted to approve the controversial redistricting plan at its Dec. 17 meeting. During the meeting, Ourso displayed text messages she received from fellow board member Tom Delahaye implying that a majority of the board was going to approve a redistricting plan that would make it difficult for her to get re-elected. Delahaye did not attend the Dec. 17 meeting.
This kind of straw polling, if it happened, seems to be a clear violation of the Open Meetings Law.
The Open Meetings Law gives the local district attorney as well as the Louisiana Attorney General the authority to enforce the provisions of this law. The district attorney and attorney general can investigate possible violations even if a formal complaint is not made to their offices.
We hope that 18th Judicial District Attorney Ricky Ward, who has jurisdiction for such matters in Iberville Parish, investigates this matter to determine if the Iberville Parish School Board violated the Louisiana Open Meetings Law.
We urge Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to launch an investigation, too.
Transparency is critical in advancing public confidence in government institutions. We hope that Ward and Caldwell act swiftly to ensure that the Open Meetings Law is being followed.