Suit alleges parish declarations were excessive and no emergency existed

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By Carolyn Roy, News Editor

A suit filed in district court by a candidate for a seat on the parish council against Natchitoches Parish Government and Parish President Rick Nowlin wants to stop Parish Government from spending money on alternate materials to repair rural roads in case of an emergency without council approval.

Alan McMurtry, Dist. 3 candidate, is the plaintiff in the suit filed Aug. 2, alleging that Nowlin violated the Home Rule Charter and a subsequent ordinance in an attempt to adjust a line item budget expense without the consent of the Parish Council. That budget adjustment was to allow for the purchase of road materials during emergencies. The suit focuses on declarations in March and May when Winn rock was unavailable because the plant that manufactured the rock temporarily closed.

Since the Winn rock was unavailable, the highway department purchased a similar material while “piggy-backing” with the Sabine Parish Police Jury after the emergencies were declared. Piggybacking is a process under which a local government agency can purchase goods, equipment, material and supplies using another agency’s purchasing contract.

The suit alleges that the declarations were excessive and no emergency existed at the time they were issued; and that budget line items were adjusted to purchase materials for Parish roads which was “excessively wide discretion.” It alleges that the declarations were not reviewed nor approved by the Natchitoches Parish District Attorney. It alleges that the adjustment of the budget line items violated a Parish Council ordinance that stated that such adjustments of more than 10 percent required the approval of the Parish Council. Nowlin said Thursday that in his opinion, the Parish acted in a legal matter in actions associated with the lawsuit.

The purchase of alternate materials was made using prices included in bids accepted by the Sabine Parish Police Jury. The purchases were also made as allowed in the highway department budget. McMurtry sought the temporary restraining order to stop Nowlin from taking further emergency action on Parish roads and spending money related to those emergencies.

However, Judge Bruce M. Bolin, a retired judge from Webster Parish, refused to issue the restraining order in a ruling Wednesday. Bolin is presiding since the Tenth Judicial District judges were recused because Parish Government partially funds their offices.