As activist Belinda Parker-Brown, six other St. Tammany residents sue State Police Commission Members alleging Open Meetings violation, U. S. Congressional candidate Cleo Fields says he would “bring again” legislation to abolish the Commission.

Community activist Belinda Parker-Brown, along with fellow St. Tammany Parish residents Rita McDonald and Hvishi Opa Luksl, explain why they sued the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) alleging violation of Louisiana’s Open Meetings Laws entailing the mailing of a letter to the campaign of Collin Sims, who is running for District Attorney in St. Tammany Parish in the election this Saturday, March 23, 2024.

On February 1, 2014, we published this feature covering the fact that the LSPC sent Collin Sims’ campaign a letter indicating that it needed to “cease and desist” from utilizing LSP troopers’ photos on billboards, which the LSPC indicated essentially was a tacit endorsement of Sims by the troopers.

Thereafter, we published this March 10, 2024 feature wherein the Sims campaign responded to the January 20, 2024 letter stating no violation whatsoever had been committed.

Belinda Parker-Brown, an avid follower and frequent guest of Sound Off Louisiana, contacted us informing us that she was “furious” over the LSPC engaging in this action and that it was a, “blatant violation of Louisiana’s Open Meetings Laws.”

On Monday, March 18, 2024, Parker-Brown, along with six (6) other St. Tammany Parish residents filed this lawsuit against the seven (7) LSPC Members whose signatures appear on that letter alleging they in fact violated Louisiana’s Open Meetings law.

Let’s take a look at a few highlights from the lawsuit:

On Saturday, January 20, 2024, each Member of the LSPC began a process of signing a letter addressed to Mr. Collin Sims, a candidate for District Attorney in St. Tammany Parish for which the election is on Saturday, March 23, 2024.

The letter accuses Mr. Sims, the interim District Attorney of St. Tammany Parish, of using the photo, “in a false light to depict those (Louisiana State Police) troopers as standing in support of your campaign.”

The named LSPC Defendants mailed the letter to Mr. Sims without placing any intention to engage in such an act on any agenda, without noticing any member of the public of its intent to do so, and without convening any public meeting to permit public comment regarding the obtaining of a formal, on-the-record affirmative vote by the LSPC body to engage in the act of drafting and mailing the letter.

The LSPC is a public body and is therefore subject to adherence to Louisiana’s Open Meetings Laws.

Louisiana R. S. 42:12 calls for the “liberal construction” of “public policy for open meetings,” and further states in R. S. 42:12(A) that, “It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy.  Toward this end, the provisions of this Chapter shall be construed liberally.”

Louisiana R. S. 42:14(B) states the following: “Each public body shall be prohibited from utilizing any manner of proxy voting procedure, secret balloting, or any other means to circumvent the intent of this Chapter.”

By circulating the letter evidenced and identified as “P-1,” the named Defendants clearly engaged in secretive proxy voting as evidenced by the exact dates and times of their signatories on the letter. Such signatures represent what should have been affirmative votes to draft and send the letter conducted in an open meeting of the LSPC; however, the named Defendants circumvented their requirement to conduct such a public matter at an open meeting and took it upon themselves to engage in the very “proxy voting and secret balloting” stated as being prohibited in R. S. 42:14(B).

Petitioners aver that the named Defendants circulated that letter, electronically signed, date stamped, and time stamped their signatures on the letter, then mailed the letter to Collin Sims with the direct and specific intent to avoid public notice, public discussion, and to specifically block Petitioners’ rights to both observe deliberations regarding the contents of the letter and to offer public comment entailing same. In short, Defendants’ acts constitute a blatant and obvious violation of Louisiana’s Open Meetings Laws.

By their knowing and willful violations of LA R. S. 42:14(B) and pursuant to LA R. S. 42:28, each LSPC Member named Defendant is personally liable unto Petitioners for the amount of $100 each to each named Plaintiff in this Petition. Further, Pursuant to R. S. 42:26(C), upon successful awarding of a Judgment of this Honorable Court in which such $100 civil penalty is assessed against each LSPC Member and awarded to each Petitioner in this Petition, Petitioners are also entitled to reasonable attorney fees and the costs of this litigation.

Further, this Petition has been filed within the 60-day timeframe permitted by LA R. S. 42:28 for the imposition of Civil Penalties against the seven (7) named Defendant Members of the LSPC as 60 days from January 20, 2024 is Wednesday, March 20, 2024.

So the suit in essence says that, as evidenced by the letter provided as an Exhibit to the lawsuit (P-1), the LSPC Members engaged in a modern-technology slow-motion meeting wherein LSPC Members are alleged to have cast affirmative votes for mailing out the letter on the following dates and times:

Chairman Eulis Simien, Jr., was first to cast an affirmative vote for mailing the letter by his date and time signature of Saturday, January 20, 2024 at 5:04 p.m.

Simien was followed by Vice Chairman Monty Montelongo, who is the LSP Trooper representative on the LSPC, who cast his electronic vote to mail the letter on Saturday, January 20, 2024 at 5:09 p.m.  [Sidebar:  The letter was copied to the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association].

Montelongo was then followed by Oliver Jenkins, who cast his affirmative vote via his electronic signature on Saturday, January 20, 2024 at 5:30 p.m.

Jenkins was then followed by Bernell Nevil, Jr., who is no longer an LSPC Member, on Saturday, January 20, 2024 at 6:39 p.m.

Nevil was followed by Mark “Aubrey” Cole, who cast his affirmative vote via his electronic signature on Sunday, January 21, 2024 at 5:18 p.m.

Cole was followed by Tony Pierite on Sunday, January 21, 2024 at 5:31 p.m.

Pierite was followed by the final member of the LSPC, who also resides in St. Tammany Parish, Jared Caruso-Riecke, who allegedly cast his affirmative vote via his electronic signature on Monday, January 22, 2024 at 12:36 p.m.

Let’s go ahead and embed that letter (Exhibit P-1 in the litigation) again at this time:

Now let’s take a look at what Parker-Brown and two other Plaintiffs in the matter had to say on camera about why they filed the suit:

 3/18/24:  Parker-Brown, McDonald, and Luksl discuss their lawsuit against the Members of the LSPC.

On another note and, as referenced near the end of that video, Louisiana State Sen. Cleo Fields, who has indicated that he is a candidate for the redrawn 6th U. S. Congressional District, responded to a question by Sound Off Louisiana‘s Robert Burns regarding why his bill to abolish the LSPC met a fate of being, “withdrawn from the files of the Senate.”  Let’s take a look at his response at this time:

 3/18/24:  Sen. Fields responds to the fate of his bill to abolish the LSPC being “withdrawn from the files of the Senate.”

So, folks, one can only assume that this was not the greatest day for the LSPC.  As we indicated on the first video above, we will monitor the suit against the LSPC Members (open meetings violations are personal liabilities and can NOT be reimbursed by the agency for whom a member serves) and produce updates as developments unfold.

CLICK HERE to view Sen. Fields’ presentation to the BRPC in its entirety.

One thought on “As activist Belinda Parker-Brown, six other St. Tammany residents sue State Police Commission Members alleging Open Meetings violation, U. S. Congressional candidate Cleo Fields says he would “bring again” legislation to abolish the Commission.”

  1. How stupid can you get? They create a letter providing the electronic trail of circulation of the letter and provide the exact date and time it got the vote of approval by the members signing. Or is it that they are just that brazen????? Anybody wonder why State Police is in such disarray?

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