District attorney sues Clarence mayor; says he changed locks at City Hall

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

Clarence mayor Tommy Evans may wish he’d done a better job of being mayor since he is the defendant in a writ of mandamus petition filed by Natchitoches Parish District Attorney Billy Joe Harrington Oct. 25. Generally, a petition for a mandamus order is made to compel a judicial or government officer to perform a duty. Evans made headlines in October of 2017 when he refused to let news media attend council meetings.

Evans then cancelled meetings for several months and issued the following statement: “I regret to inform you that no monthly council meeting will be held until the Alder-women and the Chief of Police adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the Lawrason Act and the Open Meeting Law. I will continue attempting to resolve issues by meeting with all of them privately however, all monthly council meetings are cancelled until further notice.”

The suit says Evans violated the La. Open Meetings Law by refusing to hold open meetings at least once a month. The other basis for the suit cites violation of the LARS Act which requires elected officials to perform their duties. Evans allegedly did not hold meetings in January, March, June, July, September and October of this year.

Harrington’s petition says that Evans went so far as to change the locks at Village of Clarence City Hall so the aldermen and public could not inspect financial books and records and transact normal business for the municipality. Because those meetings were not held, the suit says Clarence was on the verge of a public safety emergency because Evans did not pay liability insurance on the police vehicles and failed to pay the police chief’s salary and the aldermen’s salaries.

Also a threat to Clarence is the fact that the village owes the City of Natchitoches $20,000 for bulk water that could be discontinued for failure to pay the water bill. Harrington is asking the court to require Evans to produce the following documents:

•Show the last time Evans gave proper notice of a council meeting prior to October

•Name the person designated to take council meeting minutes and supply transcripts of those meetings

•Name the person responsible for financial records

•List of meetings held in 2018

•Bank statements for January, March, June, July, September and October