Local activist starts Flip the Jury campaign

Flip the Jury signs can be seen around the Lincoln Parish area as the election for the Lincoln Parish Police Jury approaches this fall.

By Malcolm Butler

Rick Godley said he has seen enough.

The Lincoln Parish resident — who labels himself as a political atheist on the national level but a political activist locally — has begun a sign campaign around the area in an effort to bring attention to the upcoming vote for the 12 district seats on the Lincoln Parish Police Jury.

Flip the Jury.

Godley started placing signs around the parish within the last few weeks as a reminder for parish voters. His ultimate goal?

“(To) get more (of the) younger generations aware, active and involved,” said Godley, who has video streamed local government meetings in the past year or so, including the Lincoln Parish Police Jury. “It’s time for the old to just get out of the way, retire and go home and hand it over to (a younger) generation and take control of their future.  We have too much good going on in Lincoln Parish for this petty nonsense.”

Petty nonsense?

During the calendar year of 2022 and the first month of 2023, the main topics of contention within the Lincoln Parish Police Jury were the contract for the fire, ambulance, and rescue for the parish as well as the non-reappointment of former parish administrator Doug Postel.

Both topics were highly publicized and extremely controversial. Plenty was written about both in the Lincoln Parish Journal and other media outlets.

Godley calls the signs “politically neutral.”

“Three words … Flip the Jury,” said Godley. “A call to action yet politically neutral. The only ones who should be nervous are the guilty. If a juror is concerned, then it’s the hit dog hollering adage.  Hit dog comes from the expression a hit dog will holler, meaning that a very defensive reaction to an accusation can be an admission of guilt.”

Lincoln Parish residents dealt with months of uncertainty in regards to the contract for fire, ambulance and rescue.

Finally, in October after countless police jury and committee meetings that saw plenty of political agendas emerge, the LPPJ voted in favor of the city’s 5-year proposal, albeit the vote was only 7-5 in favor. The narrow vote was in spite of the fact the Ruston Fire Department is currently more prepared from both an equipment and man-power standpoint.

It was also the most economically feasible choice when compared to the combined price tag on Pafford EMS handling the ambulance and the Lincoln Parish Fire District handling fire and rescue outside of the city limits.

Glenn Scriber, TJ Cranford, Logan Hunt, Matt Pullin, Annette Straughter, Skip Russell, and Joe Henderson all voted in favor of the city’s proposal in October while President Richard Durrett, Vice President Milton Melton, Theresa Wyatt, Hazel Hunter and Sharyon Mayfield all voted against it.

As one controversy was closing another one was heating up.

It started in early September when a letter was sent to Russell and the remaining seven jurors from Hunt, Cranford, Pullin, and Scriber outlining their concerns over a closed-door meeting that took place in which Russell asked Postel to resign from his position. The letter was also sent to members of the media bringing the meeting to light.

Postel refused to resign. Russell admitted to the meeting, but said he was approached by other police jurors and asked to have the meeting with Postel — although he never provided specific names when asked. And when asked for a list of reasons for asking for Postel’s resignation, no details were ever provided by any juror.

A few months later when it came time to vote on Postel’s reappointment as parish administrator, the police jury voted 8-4 against re-appointing him. The verdict came despite an overwhelming turnout of pro-Postel supporters that packed the Library Event’s Center that night, including a strong and vocal showing from parish employees.

Cranford, Hunt, Pullin and Scriber all voted to reappoint Postel while Durrett, Melton, Wyatt, Hunter, Russell, Henderson, Mayfield, and Straughter voted against it.

Despite repeated requests by the public in attendance and by the four jurors who voted in favor of reappointing Postel, none of the eight jurors who voted no would provide specific reasons.

The January meeting and subsequent vote was highly energized and emotional. Lincoln Parish residents in attendance voiced strong displeasure that night with the lack of transparency.

Godley said he feels 2022 proved that the current makeup of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury needs to be changed and that the election this fall is an opportunity for constituents across the parish to educate themselves on their district representatives.  He also said it was a black-eye for Lincoln Parish.

“Talk to anyone who has viewed all these meetings and actions, and they are embarrassed about this current jury,” said Godley. “Lincoln Parish used to be the paragon example in our state. Now it’s the poster child of organized mediocrity.  Lincoln Parrish deserves better.”

Godley said he has received a tremendous amount of feedback from the Flip the Jury campaign.

“Positive feedback from the voters,” he said. “Not so much from (some of) the jurors. It seems they don’t want their constituents’ asking questions.”

The Flip the Jury campaign follows the sentiments of what some residents verbalized during the public comments portion of that early January meeting when Postel was voted out of office.

“The majority of you have proven you didn’t listen to what we say,” said District 4 resident Daniel Taylor that night. “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.”

Taylor wasn’t the only person who voiced that sentiment that night.

In the last few months three Lincoln Parish residents have publicized their plans to run against the incumbents in their district.

Dan Lord announced in January that he will be running for the District 3 seat currently held by Richard Durrett. Earlier this month Chris Garriga announced he will run in District 8, a seat currently held by Skip Russell. Tommie Woods announced he will run in District 2, a seat currently held by Hazel Hunter.

It is not known yet which incumbents will run for re-election.

The elections for the Lincoln Parish Police Jury will be in November.