LPPJ disregards public voice; votes Postel out

Former Lincoln Parish Administrator Doug Postel (background) is pictured leaving Tuesday night’s LPPJ meeting after jurors voted 8-4 to not return him to the position. (Photo by T. Scott Boatright)

By T. Scott Boatright

The cries of disbelief might still be echoing through the Lincoln Parish Library Events Center following Tuesday night’s Lincoln Parish Police Jury.

An overwhelming turnout of parish residents present at the meeting unanimously showed support for Lincoln Parish Administrator Doug Postel, with 14 of those publicly speaking prior to the vote — all in favor of Postel. The showing also included more than 20 parish employees from various areas who all stood at once in support of Postel preceding the vote.

Despite the one-side showing of support — and despite not a single citizen or juror saying anything negatively about Postel or his performance — the LPPJ voted 8-4 in favor of not re-appointing Postel for another year.

Voting in favor of retaining Postel were jurors T.J. Cranford, Logan Hunt, Matt Pullin and Glenn Scriber.

Those voting against bringing Postel back to the position he was given in the summer of 2020 to replace former Parish Administrator Courtney Hall were newly-reelected LPPJ President Richard Durrett and Vice President Milton Melton along with jurors Theresa Wyatt, Hazel Hunter, Skip Russell, Joe Henderson, Sharyon Mayfield, and Annette Straughter.

Russell initially abstained from the vote, drawing a vocal response from his constituents and other Postel supporters in attendance.

Upon hearing the negative response from the crowd, Russell asked if he could reconsider his vote and then firmly said “No!” as to his vote to renew Postel’s contract.

Postel then packed his belongings and left the meeting as a discussion of appointing Assistant Parish Administrator Kevin Klepzig as Interim Parish Administrator.

Ruston’s Lynne Gnemi led off the public comments portion of that discussion.

“Nobody here has the courage to tell us why you voted no,” Gnemi said. “There has not been one statement from all of you to support a no vote, and I am appalled.”

Ruston’s James Skinner tried to follow Gnemi but was cut off by parish attorney Lewis Jones, who said that portion of the meeting was to be only about discussion of potentially naming Assistant Administrator Kevin Klepzig as Interim Parish Administrator.

After further discussion, jurors voted to appoint Klepzig as Interim Administrator until a permanent Administrator is named. That motion passed with only Cranford and Hunt voting against it.

During additional public comments toward the end of the meeting, Ruston resident Lucius McGehee Jr. kicked things off by asking jurors to reconsider reappointing Postel to his previous position as Parish Administrator.

Ruston’s Randy Braddock then asked for a two-sentence response in public from all jurors who voted no on retaining Postel, starting with Durrett.

“This is a public comment period, not a question and answer period,” Durrett replied.

Braddock then asked Jones that “absent a ballot box, what recourse does the public, the voters, the citizens, the taxpayers, have in light of a decision such as this?”

Jones responded by saying “Nothing other than potentially filing recall petitions if you could get enough signatures. If not, wait for re-elections of these jurors.”

Chris Garriga then spoke for the second time on the night, saying that he felt sorry for the parish workers who had stood up earlier in the meeting to show their support for Postel.

“This is an embarrassment for our parish on what should be a record-setting day (after Jurors earlier in the meeting approved tax breaks to bring a Buc-ee’s to Ruston),” Garriga said. “I feel sorry for our workers who just stood in support of our administrator. You just slapped all of them in the face. And not one of you can do their job. Not one.

“You probably don’t even have keys to some of their offices to open them. It’s completely embarrassing from our public leadership. You can roll your eyes and do all you want, but I promise you, in 11 months some of you will not be sitting in those seats.”

 District 4 resident Daniel Taylor told the jurors that many of them don’t listen to what their constituents say.

“The majority of you have proven you didn’t listen to what we say,” Taylor said. “You basically took the voice of everybody away tonight. And I can tell you tonight that we’re going to work to take your seats away from you for doing that.

“It was disgraceful what we witnessed tonight. Everybody in the room tonight that stood up was 100 percent in favor of Mr. Postel. And not one of you who voted against it listened to that. Instead you voted against it. And we will come after your seats. Fortunately, I live in a district with a representative who listens to us and our voices, so I’ll support that. But I’ll work in your districts to take your seats.”

Before the meeting was abruptly adjourned, Hunt asked Durrett and other fellow jurors why they voted against returning Postel to his position.

“I will not comment,” said Durrett, who quickly adjourned the meeting without a motion to do so.

Durrett was once again asked after the meeting by the LPJ why he voted against Postel.

“It’s a personnel matter, and I won’t comment on it,” Durrett said.

Melton was also asked one on one following the meeting why he voted Postel out.

“No comment,” said Melton.

After the meeting Russell admitted he kind of straddled the fence on the Postel situation.

“I did, because originally, I was opposed to the things that were going on in the office and I have some things that concern me,” Russell said. “But even after all of this, I’m willing to sit down and talk about it without getting so emotional. I realize it was a tough deal for a nice, nice gentleman. I realize that.”

Postel spoke to the Lincoln Parish Journal after he left the formal meeting.

“It is obvious that a majority of Lincoln Parish Police jurors do not care anything about the voice, their constituents, or the people of Lincoln Parish,” Postel said. “I was very touched by the outpouring of support on my behalf by both members of the community and by the employees who showed up, as well. It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of this parish as their administrator. 

“We’ve accomplished great things over the past two-and-a-half years and it is my prayer that our wonderful employees continue the work we started.”

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