The Policy Council for the MLK Head Start Center is calling for justice over the fact that its members feel Parish President Rick Nowlin has “stepped beyond his boundaries.”
Policy Council Chair Shirley Layton and Community Rep. Dr. Gloria Smith spoke at the Parish Council meeting Aug. 21.
An amendment was made to move the Head Start discussion to the top of the agenda and a motion was also made to suspend the time limit rule for speakers to give Layton and Smith adequate time to explain their side.
While there were several accusations tossed about the room and a lot of laws quoted, the overall gist of the problem was elusive to find amongst the overload of information. While the Policy Council feels it has been operating legally, there are allegations that it’s been violating open meeting laws, bringing into question the validity of decisions it’s made.
At the end of the day, the attorney that represents the Parish Government stated that everything Nowlin has done concerning the termination of former Head Start Director April Wade was in compliance with the policy manual (SEE DOCUMENT BELOW FOR AN OFFICIAL OPINION ON THE MATTER).
The grantee is the Natchitoches Parish Government, the governing body is the Parish Council, the Head Start Agency is the Office of Community Services and the six centers it operates fall under Head Start Programming. As such, April Wade is not listed as a “Department Head.” The Parish Council is only required to approve hiring and firing when it concerns department heads.
Council member Russell Rachal filed a Public Information Request for Policy Council meetings and questioned Layton as to why he’d never received it. Layton responded that she feels she isn’t legally obligated to notify the Parish Council members of anything.
“All such records are public records,” said Nowlin.
Policy Council members also demanded the reinstatement of Wade, because they need a director at the MLK Head Start Center. However, Nowlin announced he’s already tendered an offer to Chriscella Metoyer to serve as interim director.
“I had the authority to take the steps I did and it’s over with,” said Nowlin. “Everything I’ve done has been with the District Attorney’s approval.” Rachal agreed with this, saying Nowlin is authorized to make an emergency appointment when such a situation arises.
“The Policy Council doesn’t accept your appointment,” said Layton. “We call for an impasse.”
Parish Council Chair Patsy Ward Hoover said she’s spoken with a representative from the Regional Head Start Office in Dallas. Hoover claims she was told the Policy Council is the governing body for the MLK Head Start. “If it’s not in that blue book, I’m not listening,” she said. The blue book is the Head Start Program Performance Standards. Addressing Wade, she added, “We didn’t do what we were supposed to do by you as the Parish Council…It’s far from over.”
The Policy Council and Parish Councilman Chris Paige argued with the attorney over whether Wade is considered a federal or parish employee. The attorney said she is a parish employee, but this didn’t appease those who thought otherwise.
HR Coordinator Cathy Creamer requested to speak and Hoover was reluctant to recognize her. Creamer said the representative from the Regional Head Start Office stated at a training event that the Director is a Parish employee, which the Policy Council members in the audience denied.
When asked if the Policy Council is currently operating legally, all past events/decisions put aside, the members loudly said yes, but the attorney said that such a decision should be made in a court of law in Natchitoches Parish. However they disagreed on this too, saying it should be taken to a federal court.
Nowlin said everyone would have to agree to disagree over how the law works, however the DA’s Office is planning to visit with the Regional Head Start Office in Dallas to get a final opinion on the matter.
Another agenda item made Monday night’s meeting last over three hours. With Councilman Doug de Graffenried absent, Hoover and Paige voted against an item concerning insurance for Parish employees not once, but twice. With Rachal and Rodney Bedgood voting yes, the Council found itself in a stalemate.
“This means we’ll run the risk of no one having insurance,” said Treasurer Debbie Miley, who warned that deadlines are approaching and approval is needed immediately.
Hoover shrugged and said, “That’s the vote.” However, at the very end of the meeting, Hoover brought it back up with a motion to reconsider and everyone voted to keep the same agents to seek insurance for the Parish for 2018.
Other agenda items included:
Appoint Matthew Faircloth to the Natchitoches parish Fire District No. 1 Board
Revise 2017 Operating Budget for criminal jury/law enforcement, civil defense, public safety, general fund, highway, government building, health unit, library, solid waste, coroners and sales tax
Execute an intergovernmental agreement with the taxing entities of Natchitoches Parish for the sale of adjudicated properties
Approval proposed merger of the Robeline-Marthaville Water System with Sabine Water District No. 1
Consider RFP for new server
Approve intergovernmental agreement from the Federal Off-System Bridge
Rehabilitation and Replacement Program
Obtain plans and specifications for the construction of a handicap ramp at the main courthouse entrance on Church Street, to advertise for bids
Execute cooperative endeavor agreement with the LA Dept. of Veterans Affairs
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