OCTOBER 30, 2019
It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your Parish President. I had hoped to stay out of the 2019 election, but, due to recent political ads and attacks on social media, I am compelled to offer these public comments.
In particular, the political hit piece in the October 29 edition of the Natchitoches Parish Journal contained inaccuracies that were apparently intended to deceive the voters just prior to early voting.
The NPJ article contained a letter from Mr. McMurtry whose claim to fame is that he is suing the Parish to halt the purchase of materials to repair Parish roads. That letter failed to mention that the informal staff meeting was recorded by Ms. Lynda Vance (wife of the owner of the NPJ) without the knowledge of the others present. Since she was the only one who knew the meeting was being recorded, she was able to selectively offer comments to support her definition of a blanket purchase order and to challenge the legality of an emergency declaration issued to authorize road repairs.
The letter implies that the staff intended to hide its decisions from the Parish Council when, in fact, this was a working session to clarify what could be done legally so we could move on with the road repairs. Comments on what to bring before the Council were made in the context of what was policy (which is a Council matter)and what is administrative (which is a staff matter). To suggest otherwise is either a misunderstanding of what was said or a deliberate attempt to confuse the issue in the minds of the voters. The bottom line is that in conjunction with the pending McMurtry litigation, the Office of the District Attorney has stated its opinion that the Parish administration had the valid legal authority to purchase the road materials as done.
It is interesting to note that at a hearing in August, the Court refused McMurtry’s request to issue an immediate temporary restraining order to halt any actions taken by the Parish administration to purchase road materials that was alleged to be illegal or improper. In fact, the Parish currently has a pending motion to summarily dismiss the entire claims of McMurtry, which hearing is set for December 10, 2019.
The article also contained a 5 minute 20 second audio track that alleges a variety of misdeeds by the administration. Much of the discussion among the staff concerned the highway department purchase order entered into the system by Ms. Vance as a blanket purchase order. The narrator in the audio claims the Parish Code of Ordinances states that a blanket purchase order expires at the end of the month issued. In fact, the Code does not say this. It says that a blanket purchaseorder is issued “on a monthly basis”. Using Ms. Vance’s definition of a blanket purchase order appears to be part of her effort to claim the material purchases between July 1 and July 15 were illegal.
It is my opinion “on a monthly basis” means it is valid for a month from the date of issue. Otherwise, an order issued on the 28th day of a month would expire in no more that 3 days and that is simply not enough time to order and receive material, and to receive an invoice and pay it. This is an irrational argument. When Ms. Vance was asked to provide written evidence of the policy that she claimed existed, she was unable to do so.
The audio excerpt appears to be part of a meeting that lasted two hours in early July. Taking five minutes of atwo hours conversation results in comments taken out of context and different conclusions than if the entire audio was examined in context. Would one take a few verses out of the Holy Bible and claim to know all there is toknow about God? I think not.
Also, the meeting that was secretly recorded by Ms. Vance occurred nearly four months ago. If it was such an important matter, why did Ms. Vance and Mr. McMurtry wait until a few days before early voting to make it an issue? In my opinion, the answer is that it was intended to discredit both Mr. John Richmond and me to benefit the campaign of Mr. Richmond’s opponent in the Parish President election.
It is interesting that the audio recording by Ms. Vance was given by her to her attorney who is threatening to sue the Parish. Apparently, her attorney then gave the recording to Mr. McMurtry’s attorney. This seems to indicate that the McMurtry lawsuit and the threatened Vance lawsuit are part of a coordinated effort to destroy the character of Mr. Richmond and me to advance the candidacy of Mr. Richmond’s opponent for Parish President. It seems to me that they are trying to win an election using lawsuits and media attacks rather through an honest discussion of each candidate’s qualifications and experience and what each candidate would do as President.
I think the people of Natchitoches Parish are smart enough to understand what this group is trying to do.
Thank you, again, for allowing me to serve you.