Durrett, Melton re-elected as LPPJ officers despite public concerns over lack of transparency

Richard Durrett (left) and Milton Melton (right) were re-elected as LPPJ President and Vice President.

By Malcolm Butler

Richard Durrett and Milton Melton were both re-elected as President and Vice President of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury during Tuesday night’s meeting at the Lincoln Parish Library Events Center.

Before a packed house, Durrett was re-elected by a 7-5 vote while Melton was re-elected by an 8-4 vote. They both will serve for the 2023 year.

Glenn Scriber was nominated to run against Durrett for President by police juror Logan Hunt.

However, the roll call vote was done by individual and Durrett received seven of the 12 votes. Those voting for Durrett included Durrett, Melton, Skip Russell, Sharyon Mayfield, Theresa Wyatt, Hazel Hunter and Joe Henderson. Those voting against Durrett were Logan Hunt, TJ Cranford, Scriber, Matt Pullin and Annette Straughter.

Following the vote for President, the re-election for Vice President took place with Durrett nominating Melton and Cranford nominating Scriber. Those voting for Melton were Durrett, Melton, Russell, Mayfield, Wyatt, Hunter, Henderson and Straughter. Those voting against him were Hunt, Cranford, Scriber and Pullin.

Prior to the vote and during the public comments portion of the meeting, Rick Godley and Chris Garriga both addressed the concerns over how the past year saw unrest and lack of communication and transparency under the current leadership during the fire and ambulance/rescue issues surrounding Lincoln Parish.

Godley went as far as to insinuate possible corrupt behavior existed within the police jury in regards to the fire and ambulance/rescue situation, citing the fact that members of the police jury outside of the two officers did not know about the City’s $120,000 offer when it was on the table.

“It’s my understanding that this full jury did not know about the $120,000 offer from the city back in May,” said Godley. “That information was withheld from all of you. That $120,000 offer was refused by someone on this jury. That nullified the offer. A counter offer from the city was put forth and the amount was more at which time (the police jury) rejected the city’s offer and began to search alternatives.”

By the time the full jury knew of an offer, the city had researched the actual cost of the services and had countered with $645,000 — more than five times the original offer. When police juror Logan Hunt asked Durrett during the July meeting about why the jury didn’t know about the initial offer, Durrett told him, “I can’t answer that right now. I’ll be glad after the meeting to discuss it with you.”

According to Hunt, Durrett never offered an explanation.

Godley continued.

“The definition of malfeasance is intentionally doing something either legally or morally wrong which no one has the right to do,” he said. “It always involves dishonesty, illegality or knowingly exceeding authority for improper reasons.

“Once all of you found out about this some of you apologized and wanted to go on record changing your position which is a noble gesture. Those of you who did nothing with this information are now complicit with the one who committed malfeasance lest of all failing in your position as stewards of your constituents of this parish.”

Garriga followed Godley’s comments with his own.

“We had a lot of issues over the last 18 months stemming from the ambulance and fire issue,” said Garriga. “I think it’s time for a middle of the road type of person (as President). I think we need someone who can hear both sides and make a decision based on that. I would ask that the entire jury think about where we sit today and the last 18 months and how many people were in these packed (police jury) meetings.

“I think with the right leadership (the fire and ambulance/rescue) should have been taken care of within 30 days. I would ask that you put your personal vendettas and your personal agendas aside and do what is right for our community. As you can see our community is here once again because they probably don’t like what is going on today or what has been going on. I hope that you can make some good decisions for our community and not for your personal agendas.”

Immediately following the comments by both men, the police jury voted to re-elect Durrett and Melton for another year.