ST. FRANCISVILLE - The West Feliciana Parish Police Jury voted 5-2 Tuesday to ratify a contract with an unregistered company for economic development services, after District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla questioned the arrangement.
D’Aquilla said he was questioned about the contract, which Juror Lea Williams said she discovered while looking through jury financial records she obtained through a court order.
The district attorney said the contract is with Thomas P. Keene through his Cambridge Design Solutions LLC, but the Secretary of State’s Office reports that the company is not registered in Louisiana.
Keene also is managing a Louisiana Recovery Authority grant and working with the jury on a sewer system in the Independence community.
D’Aquilla said the jury apparently did not vote on the $34,000 contract, but he said the jury could vote to ratify it.
Jury President Ken Dawson said jurors authorized him to move forward on the economic development front last year after the jury broke its contract with the Community Development Foundation in a dispute over CDF firing its director.
Williams criticized the contract, noting that the jury paid Keene $5,000 for a mission statement.
Juror Randy Stevens, who voted with Williams against ratifying the contract, said Keene should return the money to the parish.
Keene defended his work, saying he could account for every hour for which he was paid, and Dawson said his efforts resulted in an economic development panel’s recommendations the jury approved earlier this year.
Dawson, John Roach, Billy Shoemake, John Cobb and Otis Wilson voted to ratify the contract.
Other matters coming before the jury Tuesday included:
HAZARD MITIGATION: Turner subdivision resident Jerry Landrum stormed out of the meeting after questioning Keene about delays in getting the state to release money granted after Hurricane Gustav for hazard mitigation.
Turner subdivision was hit hard by flooding during the hurricane, and Landrum reminded jurors that hurricane season has begun.
Dawson said “everything possible is being done” to get the state to approve the jury’s plans to address the flooding problems.
PUBLIC RECORDS: St. Francisville resident Walter Oliveaux criticized Williams for filing her public records lawsuit “prematurely,” bringing a swift response from Charles Griffin, Williams’ attorney.
“What the public needs to know (is) that this is the second time in several years that the jury has been sued for public records,” Griffin said to Oliveaux’s pointed question of whether Williams will pay the jury’s court costs.