Louisiana council ousts one of its own
Tue, 20 Nov 2012 21:12:27 GMT —
The Louisiana City Council impeached a fellow council member saying that she illegally recorded a closed session of a city council meeting.
Councilwoman Robbyn Morris was accused of violating Missouriâ??s Open Meetings Act by secretly recording a Sept. 10 closed session. She contended the executive session itself was illegal and that her use of a recording device shouldn't matter.
The council voted 7-0 to remove her from the position. Morris abstained.
Mayor Tom Wallace could appoint a replacement or wait until voters choose a candidate in the election next April. Morrisâ?? attorney Rex Bradley has indicated that a lawsuit may be filed, and Morris could face charges of violating the stateâ??s open meetings law.
The Missouri Attorney Generalâ??s office has also said that it has has launched an investigation as to whether the city acted illegally in closing the Sept. 10th council meeting which led to the impeachment charges.
Depositions taken by numerous witnesses said that the only topic of discussion during the closed session was Morris. Since Morris is not a city employee, the state's Sunshine Law might not apply to council discussions related to her.
â??Discussion in closed meeting didn't meet requirements to close,â?? Bradley said.
Bradley said that his client objected to the closed session twice.
"This was an illegally closed meeting. My client is not guilty of anything. And she shouldn't be removed from office," Bradley said.
Pike County Municipal Judge Bruce E. McGuire oversaw Tuesday's hearing, but the council had the final vote on whether to oust her from the panel.
The council chambers was packed with spectators to watch the three-hour hearing unfold as attorneys from both the city and for Morris spoke about the allegations.
"The intentional aspect of what Ms. Morris did...as she was warned on several occasions that what she was doing wasn't proper. And she kept on doing to apparently disrupt that meeting," Robert Rapp, the city attorney said.
Morris is in the second year of a two-year council term and was paid $75 per council meeting.
During the hearing, Bradley question whether it was allowable for the city clerk to record the meeting while Morris was told twice that she couldn't make a recording.
â??That makes her liable for same charges against Morris,â?? Bradley said.
Jean Maneke, attorney for the Missouri Press Association, said that the state's Sunshine Law says that the clerk is allowed to take minutes of a closed session. She said the law doesn't specify whether the minutes have to be written or recorded.
â??You can do whatever you want to create the minutes,â?? Maneke said. â??The tape recording would be the official minutes until the minutes are written. What it prohibits is anybody else recording it.â??
"I don't want to see this city pulled apart.I don't want to see the city spend what little money that have for things other than serving the public's interest. It does not serve the public interest to remove a dually elected official for this trumped up bogus charge," Bradley said.