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Bossier jurors indifferent to following law

It seems Bossier Parish can’t stay away from controversy regarding the qualifications of its parish administrator – and its Police Jury apparently doesn’t care whether it follows the law.

Earlier this year, longtime parish engineer Joe Edward “Butch” Ford, Jr. was named to replace retiring longtime parish administrator Bill Altimus. However, earlier this week during their weekly Internet narrowcast Bossier Watch hosts Rex Moncrief and Duke Lowrie, in response to an anonymized e-mail message, brought up that Ford apparently isn’t a registered voter in the parish and therefore wouldn’t be eligible to serve in that position.

The parish doesn’t have a home rule charter and thus state statute defines its government. R.S. 33:1236.1 empowers parishes to appoint a “manager” – which would equate to a parish administrator – and assistant, but both must be registered voters in the parish.

Ford doesn’t appear to be. Someone with his name matching his birth month and year and at a Shreveport address at which he has been known to reside turns up as currently as yesterday Oct. 18 with a voter registration in Precinct 115 of Caddo Parish since 1985. If this is him, Ford cannot legally at this time serve as parish administrator, and jurors didn’t do their due diligence in his selection. Nor does it seem they care much about following the law – it’s inconceivable that at least some of them haven’t known about his residence, if not his registration – being as the negligence has continued for 10 months.

Under state law, “domicile” for registration purposes doesn’t have to be the same as “residence,” and it’s possible Ford could find a way to finagle a registration in Bossier. Still, that he seems not to have done so reflects poorly. In fact, Ford recently was rewarded with an interim appointment as the parish’s library director by the Library Board of Control – perhaps not surprising as most of its members now are jurors – while at today’s Oct. 19 meeting the Jury suspended the Board’s bylaws and plans to write some anew.

Question about qualifications to serve also, for a time, dogged Altimus. He assumed the job in 2002 taking advantage of the statute that then allowed for selection of a juror also to serve as administrator as long as strategic voting recusals were taken. The Jury vetted no candidates other than him.

Belatedly recognizing the potential for blurring too much the lines between policy and administration, that was changed through legislation in 2006 by Democrat former Rep. Billy Montgomery, yet which grandfathered in Altimus. Despite that, he continued on the Jury through 2011, running unopposed for reelection in 2007 arguing that the term of his contract required him to stay on the Jury partially into that jury term to comply with the law.

It’s perhaps no surprise the Jury would let something like this go, given its reluctance to embrace transparency. Unlike the other major governing bodies in the parish, the Bossier City Council and the Bossier Parish School Board, it provides next to no information about agenda items at its meetings (when it provides an agenda online; today’s meeting had this posted only at its Facebook site, which doesn’t contain the few attachments that it customarily bothers to supply, and didn’t on its web site) and uses Facebook Live as its means of transmitting meetings, which doesn’t even show the entire jury (so it’s hard to tell who’s talking unless you know their voices). It also continues to cloak its appointments in mystery, as exemplified last year when it ushered onto it as an interim replacement Republican Julianna Parks in a process akin to the faithful waiting in St. Peter’s Square to see who emerges from the balcony after white smoke appears.

Police jurors swear to uphold the constitution and laws of the state. Bossier Parish’s don’t seem to be in a hurry to do that in this instance.

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