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Metro council chambers sit empty, Wednesday, July 11, 2018, at City Hall in Baton Rouge, La.

The East Baton Rouge Metro Council is set to revisit a proposed $5 million settlement in the civil suit filed on behalf of Alton Sterling's five children after a single public comment, sent via email, landed in a spam folder and was not read into the public record.

The mishap put the city-parish in violation of a state law requiring all public comments be read into the public record and invalidates the council's original decision in a split vote earlier this month to reject the proposed settlement

The council is slated to reconsider the measure at its Oct. 14 meeting. 

Discussions of Sterling's death typically draw a significant crowd to the Metro Council, but with restrictions in place from the coronavirus pandemic, council meetings have gone virtual and public comments must be submitted online or via email. 

But at the council's Sept. 9 meeting, one email didn't make it into the public record. Instead, the email landed in a spam folder and wasn't noticed until after the meeting, according to an email that council administrator Ashley Beck sent to council members.

"I've consulted with the Parish Attorney's Office about this, and they have advised me that because of this error, the item must be placed on another agenda for introduction and then reconsideration," Beck's email reads. 

The council is expected to return to in-person meetings by the end of September or the start of October, with the public gathered at the River Center Library to offer public comment via a live stream to council members at City Hall. 

The civil lawsuit, filed in 2017 against the city-parish, alleges the 2016 police shooting of Sterling exemplified longstanding problems of racist attitudes and excessive force within the Baton Rouge Police Department. The lawsuit is inching toward a March 2021 trial date, now more than four years after the Black man was killed during a struggle with two White police officers outside a Baton Rouge convenience store.

Federal and state prosecutors declined to press charges against the officers involved, noting that Sterling reached for a handgun inside his pocket in the moments before the shooting.

The proposed settlement requires seven votes to pass, but at the Sept. 6 meeting garnered support from only six council members: Chauna Banks, LaMont Cole, Donna Collins-Lewis, Erika Green, Chandler Loupe and Tara Wicker.

Five other council members voted against the proposal: Denise Amoroso, Dwight Hudson, Matt Watson, Trae Welch and Scott Wilson.

Councilwoman Jen Racca abstained from the vote.

Banks, who sponsored the measure, is holding out hope the measure will succeed on its second go-around. 

"We just need one more person who understands the merits of this case and can look at it the way it should be, with justice and fairness," Banks said. 


Email Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter @blakepater