St. Mary Council votes down change to date, time of meetings

Rev. Mark Gowan, President of the St. Mary Parish Ministerial Alliance, comprised of 27 churches, said he was disappointed the St. Mary Parish Council was not changing the date and time for its regular meetings. The group asked the council to make a change so the organization’s church members could particpate more in parish government.

FRANKLIN — There will be no change to the St. Mary Parish Council meeting schedule, at least for now.

On Wednesday, the St. Mary Parish Council voted 5-5-1 against a proposed ordinance to switch the meeting days and times of the council meetings from the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, to the first and third Thursdays, in order to accommodate a request from the St. Mary Parish Ministerial Alliance.

The Parish Council has conducted its business with the same Wednesday night schedule since the parish created a Home Rule Charter and changed from a police jury to a council in 1983.

The members of the St. Mary Parish Ministerial Alliance are advocating for the change because most of them hold Bible Study on Wednesday nights and feel that with the change, those who wish to participate in parish government will have the opportunity to do so.

Members of the alliance spoke before the council advocating once more for the change, but the council, in a rare move, allowed their clerk to read more than 15 emails from parish residents who were against the idea but not present at the meeting.

Councilmen Rev. Craig Mathews, Gabriel Beadle, Kevin Voisin, Glen Hidalgo and James Bennett voted for the ordinance, while councilmen Dale Rogers, Paul Naquin, Sterling Fryou, Patrick Hebert and Ken Singleton voted against it. Councilman Jay Ina was absent because he is on vacation.

Naquin said he was for the idea, but voted no because a new council takes over in January, and he thought it should be their decision.

Hebert and Rogers took issue with the alliance over many concerns, Rogers saying that he was told by reliable sources that a pastor who is a member of the alliance had an interest in seeking a St. Mary Parish Council Seat.

Hebert questioned the group, “Where have you all been? Why are you just now appearing? Is it because this is an election year?”

Commenting that he has been a member of an Ultreya Cursillo men’s group for over 25 years, he said moving the council meetings to Thursdays would prevent him from attending an Ultreya meeting because Thursday is also that group’s meeting night.

He also questioned how the alliance chose Thursdays, because he felt moving the meetings up an hour to 5 p.m. would accommodate Bible Studies throughout the parish.

“We could also meet on Mondays, “ Hebert said, noting that he also had issue over the ordinance in how it was presented to the council.

“We were never given another option, or allowed to discuss the matter further,” he said.

Rogers said he was taken aback by “threats of votes” should he not vote for it.

“I was told that a person who wants to run for council is a preacher. And he does not want to decide whether to go to Bible Study, or go the council meeting. Then I was told this person was not running for office, and that this was not the decision to change the meeting dates,” Rogers said.

“I always vote my decisions for the best of this parish. And I cannot support this ordinance under the presumption that we are satisfying one person or one group of people.”

“This is a political maneuver to gain some type of control over this council,” Rogers said.

During a public hearing before the vote, Rev. Marty Harden, Pastor of Bethel Pentecostal Church in Patterson, reassured the council that the alliance was “simply asking for the opportunity to participate in local government.”

“The only time I ever hear from most of you is when you’re running for election. Tonight, I am asking you to consider voting for this ordinance,” Harden said.

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