By Malcolm Butler
Tuesday night’s monthly Lincoln Parish Police Jury meeting was far from the norm.
The Jack Beard Room at the Lincoln Parish Library was packed as approximately 100 members from the community turned out to show and voice their displeasure over recent issues involving personnel issues and a division and lack of transparency in regards to the ambulance-rescue controversy.
Following the normal agenda for the main LPPJ meeting, the public comments portion of the night began. And the participants didn’t hold back in voicing their concerns.
“I moved to Ruston when I was in the eighth grade,” said James Skinner. “I went to Junior High here. I went to Ruston High. I went to Louisiana Tech. I taught school for a while. I moved away in ’85 and moved back 20 years ago. And I love this Parish. I love this community. I’m committed to serving. I’m proud of it. I am not proud tonight.”
“I would like to know what is going on with this Lincoln Parish Police Jury,” said Bill Smith. “It appears to me that you choose sides and start to fight and bite and kick without any consideration for John Q. Public. There used to be a time this jury was held in high esteem. Not any more. Not any more.”
The on-going ambulance-rescue situation has been in the headlines for months, illuminated by the police jury’s 6-3 vote against the City of Ruston’s $645,000 offer during the July meeting.
However, the past week saw new concerns come to the forefront when a letter signed by jurors Logan Hunt, Glenn Scriber, TJ Cranford and Matt Pullin was sent to the remaining jurors, outlining their displeasure over the fact juror Skip Russell had asked LPPJ Administrator Doug Postel to resign in a closed-door meeting the previous week.
This occurred without the entire jury’s knowledge, and according to Russell, at the request of five other jurors. Not only was the move illegal per state law, but it showed a division and lack of transparency throughout the jury.
“I have supported this jury, and I have appreciated the work it has done,” said Bill Jones. “But I am very disappointed with what I have read recently about the jury’s actions regarding the administrator. The jury has mishandled this matter terribly. And it has shaken the public’s confidence in the jury which I hate.”
A large contingency of upset constituents attended Tuesday’s meeting and those who spoke left little doubt about the overriding sense throughout the room.
“Y’all were elected to serve your constituents, and I don’t think you constituents are proud of what we are doing now,” said Skinner. “Y’all need to work this out. Be adults. Have courage. Do the job that you were elected to do. We can do better. We must do better for this parish.”
“It appears to me that there is something that we can do with as many good minds as you have on this jury,” said Smith. “It’s pathetic that everyone has their own way of thinking. It’s always me, me, me. It’s never us. It’s them. And they. And that concerns me.”
The public comment portion of the police jury meeting doesn’t allow for questions to be asked of the jurors. That may have kept the meeting from lasting much longer than it did.
At the end of the night, Lincoln Parish residents – voters – made one point very clear.
“I think this may be a pretty good time to start sending some of the jurors home if they can’t look out and see what is best for this parish,” said Smith.
“There needs to be some accountability or in November (of 2023), I promise you, there’s going to be some people on some ballots and it’s going to be interesting to watch and see what changes,” said Chris Garriga.
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