Closed-door meeting’s legality questioned

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 18, 1998

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / November 18, 1998

HAHNVILLE – The Monday meeting of the St. Charles Parish Council endedin an executive session, taken to discuss personnel matters within the council office. Council members seemed split on whether the closedmeeting was legal, but they decided it was and retired to a locked room to discuss the matter under review. None made any comment regarding themeeting afterward.

Parish President Chris Tregre and parish attorney Randy Lewis felt the meeting was improperly called and refused to attend.

The closed meeting was approved at 9:58 p.m., two minutes before thecouncil-rules-mandated public meeting end at 10 p.m.”My opinion is the meeting was taking place after the public meeting was already adjourned,” Tregre declared. He said that according to councilrules the public council meeting is mandated to end at 10 p.m. unless thecouncil votes to suspend the rules and extend the time. That was not doneprior to the council going into the closed meeting.

According to Council chairman “Ram” Ramchandran, the meeting was called to discuss personnel matters. Tregre entered the meeting and saidhe heard it was to discuss the revamping of office space for the council staff. Tregre commented afterward he thought it was not a proper subjectfor an executive session, said so, and left with Lewis in tow.

He was later told the session had to do with the health of a parish employee and he was invited back in. However, upon re-entry, he found itwas about stress generated by the lack of office space and the need for three more employees. Tregre again left.The closed meeting was held in the office space formerly occupied by the parish finance office, now being renovated for council staff use.

Tregre said he was not happy with the apparent snowballing growth of council office expenses. In 1988, he said, the office managed with fiveemployees at a $150,000 budget. The budget request for 1999 is $1.032million and 11 employees.

“I’m only guessing,” Tregre said. “I don’t know what was said after I left.It needs to be further defined for me.”Reporters covering the Parish Council meeting camped outside the room where the closed meeting was held, hoping to get comment from someone afterward.

This reporter attempted entry but was physically expelled by Alexander, who said only, “He lied to you. Check!” as he slammed and locked the door.

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