We are compelled yet again to address Terrebonne Parish Recreation District 2-3, in regard to a deer stand that was on property owned by Terrebonne Parish and leased by the district.
Parish President Gordon Dove has acknowledged that during a recent inquiry he made the recreation district’s chairman, Gary Beeson, acknowledged that the deer stand was his. Beeson, Dove said, denied using it for hunting, and said he had been using it to take photographs.
The stand, located between Houma’s “The Lakes” neighborhoods and Valhi Boulevard, has since been taken down.
A reporter who had been looking into the deer stand matter -- after learning that parish officials were made aware of it, contacted Beeson. Beeson hung up the phone and did not return subsequent phone calls.
A public records request for photographs taken from the deer stand on the Recreation District property by its chairman is pending and thus far has received no reply.
So what’s the big deal?
It’s bigger than you think.
But a few preliminary statements are in order here. Work on the Bayou County Sports Complex, which is a project the land involving the deer stand is part of, is seeing noticeable progress. As Gordon Dove has promised, construction is moving forward. Dove should also be commended for his candor in discussing his talk with Gary Beeson. The transparency is welcome.
But now to the question of the deer stand and its importance.
Leases for deer hunting cost a lot of money.
Although area hunters have questioned why anyone would hunt in that particular area, the issue must be seen in context. Months of delays in the construction of the sports park, the foot-dragging that has resulted in no suitable area for soccer play within its confines, and issues concerning time for construction regarding baseball fields, are exacerbated when there is a suggestion that the district’s chairman is recreating on the publicly owned land.
Additionally, fields in the area of the stand appeared to have been tended to. Another question the district has not answered is one asking who mowed the fields and when.
A public records request is outstanding as to that.
Mr. Beeson, ironically, just took on the role of custodian of records for the district.
None of this would be of as much significance, either, if not for the district’s history of violating open meetings laws. Despite the scrutiny this board has been under, it has failed to take a simple step forward that many public entities in Terrebonne and elsewhere do, which is to hire an attorney.
Instead the board members have grappled with legal questions in public at their meetings.
We are not in a position to suggest that Mr. Beeson did or did not violate any laws regarding his deer stand. We can say with confidence that it is not flattering in its appearance.
If there was anything good about keeping a deer stand on public property we fail to see why, after being reported, it was so quickly and easily taken down.
We challenge members of the Terrebonne Parish Council, who have authority over the recreation districts, to publicly question Mr. Beeson about his deer stand.
There are other things about the way District 2-3 is run that they may have questions about as well.
The problems surrounding District 2-3 have made life difficult for members of other such boards, by making them look troubled by extension. Here is an opportunity for that to be remedied.
We would recommend that Mr. Beeson himself ask for time at the next parish council meeting to tell his own story of the deer stand, how it got there, how it was used, and finally, why it was taken down.
A little bit of transparency goes a long way. And some transparency from Mr. Beeson would do the parish some good.
A true telling of the deer stand story would seem a good place to start.