Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
We are all familiar with our first amendment right to free speech, and the fact that laws cannot be made to silence our voices. It is what gives me the right to even compose this opinion piece for you to read.
I was shocked yesterday afternoon when the agenda for Recreation District 2/ 3 was placed on my desk. It started out typical… election of officers, finance report, old business… Then an item listed under new business caught my eye.
Item 12h: “Opinion of a board member’s responsibilities, legal obligations and whether a board member can take stances that are detrimental to the mission of Recreation District 2/3.”
Let me take a moment to give you a little background on MY opinion of what is happening here.
Rec 2 / 3 placed a millage renewal on a recent ballot and it failed. A certain board member exercised his right to free speech and also took a stance against the millage. He did not believe in it, or in the direction the board was going, asking for more money with no plans for its use.
He was obviously not alone in his opinion, and the millage failed to pass when placed to a vote of the public.
Let me rephrase that. A person on a VOLUNTARY board did not agree with the majority and said as much.
And as PUNISHMENT, the board is taking the steps to get a legal opinion completed (which by the way, costs money from YOUR tax dollars) to look for ways to silence those who disagree with them.
For members of a government board that is responsible for approximately $1.5 million of our tax dollars annually and the largest recreation project in the history of Terrebonne Parish to attempt to silence a fellow member just because they do not agree with the chairman’s beliefs is abhorrent and has no place in today’s society.
A board of directors is designed to bring up varying opinions so that a consensus can come about that might not be immediately apparent. Our council appoints members to these boards to be stewards of good intention on behalf of their district. They apply and are selected because of their personal and professional backgrounds.
Another interesting point is that this board meeting is being held on the same night as a regularly scheduled council meeting. No members of the council could even possibly attend and conduct the oversight they are required to do.
And while not illegal, there are other things this board has done that I find questionable: There have been issues with this board ignoring public records requests. They have stopped posting agendas to the public Facebook Page where it was easy for citizens to monitor the actions of the public board. They have chosen to delete comments on their public page that attempt to ask questions of their practices.
I fear these formerly well-intentioned boards are slipping back into a “our way or the highway” mentality that has been an issue with past Rec boards.
What are your thoughts? Should the people entrusted with our tax dollars be encouraged to make decisions in lock-step with other people’s intentions? Or are they free to have their own opinions?