Mayor, Council may have Violated Open Meeting Law

Action taken at last night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council appears to have violated Louisiana’s Open Meeting Law, LA RS 42:11, et seq.

Specifically, a matter as listed on the published and council-approved agenda was not considered, and action was taken to amend a proposed ordinance without properly amending the meeting agenda.

No such amendment action was listed on the approved agenda. The agenda had earlier been unanimously approved by the council, upon a motion by Carolyn Cage, and a second by Jim Pierce.

Section II, Item D of the approved agenda was listed thus:

Consider Ordinance No. _____ of 2018, Levying an Additional Sales Tax of One and Seventy-Five Hundredths Percent (1.75%) in Economic Development District No. 1 of the City of Ruston, State of Louisiana (The “District”)…

However, when it was time for the item to be considered, Mayor Ronny Walker, who chairs the meeting, said it would not be voted upon. He claimed that an ordinance amending the boundaries of the district was being introduced, and that the tax itself couldn’t be voted upon until those boundaries were set.

Said Walker, “Although the ordinance will not be acted on tonight, we will have a public hearing as previously announced, in which any person desiring to make a public comment on the ordinance levying the tax may do so tonight.”

That appears to conflict with this provision of the Open Meetings Law:

LA RS 42§19. Notice of meetings

A.(1)(b)(i) All public bodies, except the legislature and its committees and subcommittees, shall give written public notice of any regular, special, or rescheduled meeting no later than twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, before the meeting.

(ii)(aa) Such notice shall include the agenda, date, time, and place of the meeting. The agenda shall not be changed less than twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, prior to the scheduled time of the meeting.

Next, the mayor proceeded to seek an amendment to the tax ordinance that would limit the tax to a maximum of ten years. No such action was contemplated on the approved agenda.

The motion was made by Angela Mayfield, and seconded by Jedd Lewis. It passed unanimously.

In response to questions, City Attorney Bill Carter said that was the only amendment under consideration.

Here again, there appears to be a conflict with the law:

(cc) Upon unanimous approval of the members present at a meeting of a public body, the public body may take up a matter not on the agenda. Any such matter shall be identified in the motion to take up the matter not on the agenda with reasonable specificity, including the purpose for the addition to the agenda, and entered into the minutes of the meeting. Prior to any vote on the motion to take up a matter not on the agenda by the public body, there shall be an opportunity for public comment on any such motion in accordance with R.S. 42:14 or 15. The public body shall not use its authority to take up a matter not on the agenda as a subterfuge to defeat the purposes of this Chapter.

During the public hearing, several citizens opposed to the tax commented. There were no comments in support of the tax.

James Fuller, who last month wrote a letter to the council members, and which was subsequently published as a letter to the editor, commented opposing the tax. He noted that questions brought up in his letter had not been answered.

Also heard from was Lou Taylor, who said, “We need to complete Phase I. We need to get additional information regarding the sports districts, etc. from other cities that have them. I just think we are overextending ourselves until we finish phase one.”

Chris Garriga, a local restaurant owner, said he felt that the tax should be limited to 5 years instead of ten.

Mary Halbrook said she had contacted her council member to oppose the tax.

“I feel that if we’re having all these people that are coming to town – coming to the sports complex – these thousands of people that are coming to town eating in restaurants – just the sheer number of people coming will increase the tax revenue, and you’ll have that money to fund Phase II,” she said.

She added that the tax should be levied on hotels only and not restaurants.

As we had noted upthread, an amendment to the tax district boundaries was introduced.

Walker said the amendments added food trucks and crawfish trailers to the list, and removed some closed restaurants.

One notable deletion was Ruston Theaters, LLC.

See here the original ordinance as adopted on 10/1/18.

See here the amendments.

Walker also announced a special called meeting for Thursday, November 29, at 5:00 PM. He said a final voted on the tax ordinance would be held then.

About 15 minutes into the meeting, a tornado warning caused the meeting to be interrupted for about 30 minutes. Everyone was evacuated into adjacent offices during that time.

125 Responses to “Mayor, Council may have Violated Open Meeting Law”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Who stands to gain the most financially from Walker ramrodding these taxes through?

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Walker is the only one that gains and city loses. He’s doing this to save his own face and he’s scrambling for other financial options to fund his pet projects. He’s robbing peter to pay Paul.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    get in touch with the Louisiana Attorney General

  4. Anonymous Says:

    What about Leguslative Auditor?

    • Anonymous Says:

      If anyone is going to contact the L. Auditor’s office, you may want to add all the times the Mayor donated time, City equipment and labor on various projects by certain developers (jimmy johns, monster moto) and what about the money that was sunk into the heard building for ruston fashion week, all of the donuts, oj, etc for the “prayer meetings”, the money that the city put into the dawg statues, the blue Christmas lights downtown, the big light ball, the ice skating rink, buyinh property for the rails to trails. I mean, don’t spend frivolously and you wouldnt have to over tax the people that put you in office.

      • Anonymous Says:

        Skating rink is a joke and a piece of crap

        • Anonymous Says:

          Well he bought two of them. And not sure he went to bid on the christmas lights that cost a ton!

          • Anonymous Says:

            It’s all dumb. Trashy almost. And why should city have to continue to go into debt because of Walker ? We don’t want your dumb lights or your fake skating rink. It’s better to have a financially stable city.

            • Anonymous Says:

              Agreed. My family tried to take our small children there on several times last year and it wasn’t open. It was closed too during Christmas Eve. Strange for a holiday rink? We aren’t from here and when finally saw it won’t go back. It’s dirty and it’s plastic.

        • Anonymous Says:

          City pays someone to work the gate and “encourages” employees to “volunteer” at the skating rink with skates, cleanup, etc. Of course, he offers them free skating for family members. The hated setup itself which is done by city employees is a virtual mess as has been expressed by some workers.

  5. Mrchickenfest Says:

    Email lee Zurich and he will dig into the case I promise lzurik@fox8tv.net

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Shouldn’t the city attorney stop this sort of issue from happening?

  7. Mrchickenfest Says:

    Lee loves bringing anyone statewide down he doesn’t care the market.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    You think you have it bad,Jonesboro has its own crook running for mayor. He spent four yrs behind bars,he’s out and in a run off for mayor again. Jonesboro will never learn it seems.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Look at Jonesboro and see future of Ruston. Mayor that is. Doubt Jonesboro will ever feel the need for a dumb sports complex or fake skating rink. For the most part they are good country folk. Not looking to be s Dallas or shreveport and squeeze a million things in on a service road in a small ( used to be ) good college town. Be so glad when Walker no longer mayor. But the $ damage has been done. Image too. We are the joke in Monroe.

      • Anonymous Says:

        Wrong Jonesboro and Jackson Parish do have a sports complex and a golf course which are supported by a parish wide property millage.

        • Anonymous Says:

          Who are you? Mayor’s assistant?

        • Anonymous Says:

          I believe it’s the Jackson parish police jury that’s in charge of the sports complex. I don’t think the town has enough smarts to be in charge of any thing. Bad water,low water pressure,bad sewer system,bad roads and hiring people with no experience. The mayor is a racist that hires mostly blacks with a few whites at city hall. Now they have a ex convict in a run off in the mayors race,sounds like a real good place to live doesn’t it ? Ruston remember this( a town or city is no better than the people who run it). The only thing that’s saving Jackson parish is that we still have a great sheriff and great deputies that keep the parish safe.

          • Anonymous Says:

            Quite true. They aren’t controlled by the mayor either like is happening in Ruston. Wake up Ruston. Look at Walker’s character & decide if things are as they seem. Say no to his taxes and him ruining the city.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    We hear mayor can sometime be found “working” in a downtown shop he owns. Wonder if he put himself on the payroll after he fired the manager? Guess he has his “yes” people holding down the fort at City Hall.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Hummmm. He owns several businesses in town.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I heard he fired his wife!

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Right under your nose! Who would have guessed it? In-house and beneficial to both parties; however, not for the City!

  13. anonymous Says:

    I hear he’s in Dallas right now with one of his women.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    It’s wasted city time. Short skirt or otherwise

  15. Anonymous Says:

    City Hall 2nd floor…

  16. Anonymous Says:

    The mayors office

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Finance office.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    ewwww

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Put two and two together people! Helps him out with money matters.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    Did they ever replace the controller that was ousted recently? I doubt it. Convenient isn’t it. And with new auditors, who will ask any questions now?

  21. Anonymous Says:

    So true. And he’s cheated on all his wives so what’s married matter?

  22. Anonymous Says:

    Doesn’t matter if it is common knowledge or not. Most are afraid to say anything. Keep their heads low and mouth shut. Careful to not contact any who have left the city for fear of reprisal. Morale among most employees is lowest it has ever been while mayor is out playing around.

    • Anonymous Says:

      He is the worst mayor the city has ever had. When most of the public finds out details that most city employees know it will be too late. He won’t be elected again next term and will leave city deeply in debt and he will move away.

    • Anonymous Says:

      I have heard it from several people at Public Works and City Hall including one that currently works with her on the second floor. So I am inclined to say it’s probably true.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    Praying the additional tax ordinance is defeated. Council VOTE NO! Please!

    • Anonymous Says:

      I know that we will never eject our council member again if they approve this tax. My friends & I discuss this often. None of them will be reelected if they approve it.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    I encourage you to call and email your councilman asking them to vote no on the tax ordinance. And attend the meeting on Nov 29 at 5 o’clock. Note that regular meetings are at 5:30 and this special meeting will be at 5. It is very important to let your voices be heard. Stand strong and united. Good can prevail if folks unite. Amen!

  25. Anonymous Says:

    Amen brothers and sisters! Be strong. Vote NO.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    Amen!

  27. Anonymous Says:

    Did I miss the post where Walter came back to say that the rules were followed during the City Council meeting?

  28. Anonymous Says:

    Walter, did you say the rules were followed during the last council meeting? What say ye?

  29. Anonymous Says:

    L)j7htftjnhvrdth

  30. Anonymous Says:

    Mayor clearly DID NOT follow the rules in handling the tax ordinance, trying to confuse folks and buy more time in calling for a special meeting on the 29th at 5 o’clock (instead of the normal meeting time of 5:30), thinking public would likely not attend the meeting and they would be able to get it passed with no opposition. Those opposing this tax, please call your councilmen, email them, attend the meeting on November 29 at 5. Let them know what you think.

    • Anonymous Says:

      And why couldn’t it have waited another few days to the regular meeting date of December 3? Maybe a time constraint and mayor is fairly sure it will pass. Folks, call your aldermen and ladies. They are the voices for you. If this tax passes, it is just a matter of time before he will have another one. Now that is a sure thing. He’s got to have some way to pay for all his projects. Ask you councilmen to vote NO.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    Someone should have a cold hard talk with the mayor about the character and lack of integrity he is boldly displaying on a daily basis. It sure puts the city in a bad light by him not setting a good example.

  32. Anonymous Says:

    Agreed. His lifestyle is unbecoming

  33. Anonymous Says:

    Ik. Eacpecially since he dumped wife #3

  34. Anonymous Says:

    Reminding everyone to show up this week at the special city hall meeting. Thursday the 29th at 5:00. Call your council members . Protest and oppose this tax. We will overcome this taxation nightmare.

  35. Anonymous Says:

    Our whole neighborhood will be calling to oppose the tax which is being shoved down our throats. Citizens unite. Take our city back.

    • Anonymous Says:

      My husband and I opposing too. Also my brother and his family. It’s awful what Walker has done to our once quaint town. We refuse these taxes and will not re elect our council member if they vote yes. They know the community does not approve.

  36. Anonymous Says:

    Communities in our City are calling on the City Council to vote NO for additional taxes. If the finances of the City had been handled correctly these past months, we would not be having this conversation. Poor leadership, poor decisions made by those who don’t know what they are doing. Just because the mayor wants it does not mean it is right.

    • Anonymous Says:

      The finances used to be handled correctly. For many years before this mayor . He shouldn’t have stepped in and tried to control them. Former treasurer had perfect audits and the city was stable.

      • Anonymous Says:

        To be sure, former mayor was a man of integrity and a good steward of taxpayers money. He was a good boss and friend to employees and retirees alike.

  37. Anonymous Says:

    But the former treasurer would not bend the rules, so he handpicked a new treasurer and one he primed to play his game. And does she ever!

  38. Anonymous Says:

    I bet the city didn’t even advertise or post that position. As a matter of fact, the city rarely posts any positions, which is the responsibility of the Human Resorce Department. One in three in HR are trained properly. The other two are mayor’s puppets and do it his way.

  39. Anonymous Says:

    I know that’s right! As a retiree and still in city’s health insurance system, I have been forced to deal with the rudest and dumbest individual when trying to get my questions answered. And that’s no joke.

  40. Anonymous Says:

    And look at how much the health premiums have gone up since Walker took office. That was one of the first things he did. It has really hurt employees but especially the retired folks.

    • Anonymous Says:

      And yet Walker gave himself a $20,000 annual raise yet now charging the city’s people yet ANOTHER tax?

  41. Anonymous Says:

    And he goes to Dallas for a fun get away which includes eating out, shopping, and otherwise hanky panky instead of shopping Ruston first. But then he has plenty to spend.

  42. Anonymous Says:

    Mayor gets a raise and because of poor choices or bad advice or whatever, is trying to gouge taxpayers with another tax. We have enough taxes. Vote no!

    • Anonymous Says:

      It’s definitely his poor choices. He accepts advice from no one. Current state of the city reflects that. A leader only as powerful as his personal life & morals. Power got to his head.

  43. Anonymous Says:

    And city attorney remains silent and council members mute to important issues affecting citizens. It is time for council to take control and represent the taxpayers. Vote no to more taxes!

    • Anonymous Says:

      Council sure won’t be re elected . Can’t be silent when the masses are protesting. I think a larger media source than small town paper needs to hear about this.

  44. Anonymous Says:

    KNOE Monroe twists their stories to suite mayor. They are cheerleaders along with Ruston Leader. Sooner or later, the Legislative Auditor is bound to get involved. Audit season is a while away and the new auditors were probably hand-picked.

  45. Anonymous Says:

    I thought they had to put auditors out for bid (like previously done). I bet that wasn’t done.

  46. Anonymous Says:

    Hand picked is more likely. So Walker can have the auditor he wants. Start fresh. Clean slate.

    • Anonymous Says:

      To cover up what he wants covered up. Which is why everyone that knows is no longer there. They were people of high standards. Actually s compliment to them and bad reflection of Walker. He did them a favor.

  47. Anonymous Says:

    Call your councilmen. Let them know how you feel about the tax and I encourage you to oppose the tax. But also, I hope you will express concern and embarrassment at the way Walker has failed to show concern for current employees and the cruel and cold way he has terminated or forced out others. Walker’s personal life has affected the City’s core – the heart of what has always made folks feel confident that leadership in our City government has their best interests at the forefront and are being good stewards of our tax dollars. Let your councilmen know that there is no confidence in the current administration – that we won’t stand for it any longer. Call them today before they vote on the 29th.

  48. Anonymous Says:

    Contact your council member before Thursday at 5pm (29th):

    Ms. Carolyn Cage – Ward 1, Ruston, Louisiana; 243-2492
    Ms. Angela Mayfield – Ward 2, Ruston, Louisiana; 243-0998
    Mr. Jedd Lewis – Ward 3, Ruston, Louisiana; 548-1036
    Mr. Jim Pearce – Ward 4, Ruston, Louisiana; 548-9422
    Mr. Bruce Siegmund – Ward 5, Ruston, Louisiana; 614-4352

    If you don’t know which ward you live in, call all five.

    Thank you!

  49. Anonymous Says:

    We don’t want to miss the Special Council meeting on Thursday at 5. Show the mayor that we do not want an additional 1.75% tax added to what we’ve already got. If that passes, you can bet there will be another. The City’s finances are in a mess. This we know. He has taken funds from major city accounts to cover his projects’ expenditures and at this point, there is no easy fix. The budget is set every year for a reason and can’t and shouldn’t be tampered with; however, budget has been tampered with by our out-of-control mayor and the city treasurer is going along with his demands. Let your councilman know your thoughts before it is too late.

  50. AndyH Says:

    Everything that has been brought to light about the spending, the budget, the Peyton Place atmosphere at city hall has been confirmed thanks to the motor mouth in the Mayor’s office. She has confirmed all of the rumors. So please, CALL YOUR ALDERMAN AND VOICE YOUR DISAPPROVAL OF THE TAX. Show up Thursday night! We can’t let the narcissistic “God Complex” of the current administration ruin our city! Speak up people!

    • anonymous Says:

      Who has confirmed all of the rumors?

      • Anonymous Says:

        There is one current employee that keeps yapping her mouth. Mayor doesn’t realize she can’t be trusted.

      • Anonymous Says:

        Well there is one in particular that has talked all over town and seems to confirm what is already on the street. The heavy blond at public works and the curley headed lady at the civic center love to talk and seem to be in the know confirming what we have heard. Time will tell but I’m inclined to believe it all. You can’t make up sone of this stuff!

        • anonymous Says:

          So it is the CFO he’s “dating”? So wrong.

          • Anonymous Says:

            That’s an ewwy thought! She is in a convenient position to make things happen. And in the absence of the controller (she was recently terminated), mayor and treasurer are in control – until the legislative auditor gets involved. Then the blame will be on treasurer or her predessor. How convenient.

  51. Anonymous Says:

    Surely the Council will do the right thing….for the taxpayers. Contrary to what Walker says, the new tax will not help the situation our city government/finance department has gotten themselves into. Pulling monies from major funds (note that I said fundS) to finance others is NOT good business. Making changes in the adopted budget with NO budget amendments to be found! Something is wrong, very wrong!!!

    • AndyH Says:

      There’s definitely not full disclosure at all. When someone questions missing funds, Mayor gets mad and finds an avenue to get rid of that employee. Just think what he would do if a year from now the citizens demanded to see how the money is being allocated. Maybe we should demand a full financial report of the last three years so we can see all the funny money moves. Ask questions people!

  52. Anonymous Says:

    Mayor and treasurer say incompetency is the reason for monies missing in those accounts. When actually the monies were used for his projects. They did not follow the rules by amending the budget and consequently, no one knew until it was too late. And the ones that could prove it were terminated without notice.

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