D.A. Stutes: Lafayette Civil Service Board violated Open Meetings Law

by Patrick Flanagan

The local board held an illegal executive session during its June meeting, according to the findings of an investigation by the district attorney’s office.

DA Keith Stutes

As The Independent asserted at the time, the Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board violated the state’s Open Meetings Law for holding an illegal executive session during its June meeting. That's the findings of an investigation by the District Attorney’s Office.

The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed by The Independent after this reporter was ejected from the board’s June 10 meeting for video recording the proceedings.

The Independent spoke with 15th Judicial District Attorney Keith Stutes who confirmed Thursday that his investigation had been completed and that the board was found in violation of the Open Meetings Law.

“I conducted the investigation, obtained copies of the agendas and minutes, and interviewed all board members individually and came to the conclusion that there were in fact violations of the Open Meetings Law,” Stutes tells The Independent. “I sent them a consent judgment to consider signing.”

According to Stutes, the board signed the judgment during its July monthly meeting Wednesday of this week.

The consent judgment filed by Stutes focuses solely on the improper executive session held by the board and the fact that the public wasn’t given an opportunity for comment. Though the judgment doesn’t mention the board’s refusal to allow this reporter to video record the proceedings, Stutes tells The Independent the law is clear: “They can’t prohibit anyone from recording."

Stutes says he doesn’t believe the board intentionally violated the Open Meetings Law. The issue, he says, largely resulted from lack of knowledge of the law by the board and its attorney, and that the consent judgment — which does require the board to pay court costs — is primarily an attempt to educate the board on how it ran afoul of the Open Meetings Law and to prevent it from happening again.