SHREVEPORT, La. – The Caddo Parish Commission on Thursday did not have enough members attend an in-person meeting in Government Plaza. That's the second time it's happened this week.
Only five showed up for the 3:30 p.m. regular session. Seven are needed for a quorum. For Monday’s work session, only four were counted as present.
Several commissioners have said during virtual settings they do not want to attend in-person meetings because of health concerns. Commissioner Roy Burrell has been the most outspoken and said he falls within the criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control as being more susceptible to COVID-19 by being over age 65 and having underlying health conditions.
The commission, like most public governing bodies, has been meeting virtually since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. But a new state law enacted during the recent Legislative session -- that few appear to know much about – put restrictions on virtual meetings.
Act 302 only allows public bodies to met virtually if the agenda items are related to the coronavirus, if a delay in action will curtail vital public services or cause economic hardship or if the matter is critical to continuation of the public body’s business and can’t be postponed.
If a meeting agenda doesn’t fit those requirements then the commission must meet in person, parish attorney Donna Frazier said.
Commissoner Stephen Jackson questioned how the New Orleans City Council could meet virtually Thursday morning with an extensive agenda filled with non-emergency items. He cited another public body in southern Louisiana that did the same.
Jackson offered a motion to continue Zoom meetings while the legal team explored the pros and cons of filing suit against the state because of the new law. That motion failed, as did a related motion.
Commissioner John-Paul Young said it may be too soon to file suit and suggested the attorneys look at what other public bodies are doing. It’s possible, he said, they could join in with a legal challenge that others may file.
Frazier said the commission should follow the guidelines of the new law until told otherwise.
During a special meeting that was held via Zoom at 1 p.m., commission members set a public hearing date in September to adopt required millage rates for 2021. Ordinances related to the sale of alcohol beverages and handling cards and action on an oil and gas lease could not be considered during the 3:30 p.m. meeting because of the lack of a quorum.
Shreveport City Council members held their first in-person meeting last week at Government Plaza. The commission meetings are held in the same room as the commission.
Plexiglass shields are placed on each side and in front of where members sit. Plexiglass also is placed in front of the space where the public addresses the public bodies. Seating is restricted, and everyone is required to wear masks.
Government Plaza was shut down Wednesday to be disinfected after several employees in the building tested positive for COVID-19.