Victory for Open Meetings in Suit by CCN Staffer

By Woody Jenkins • Editor • Central City News • CITY OF CENTRAL — Chief District Judge Wilson Fields has ruled in favor of Central’s Kim Powers in her efforts to defend Louisiana citizens’ constitutional right to have open meetings of public bodies — a right that is in great danger right now.

Last July the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was considering whether to require 800,000 Louisiana students to wear masks all day in every public and private school in the state. Before the public hearing began, BESE president Sandy Holloway arrogantly “ruled” that if you wanted to come to their meeting and speak against mandatory masks, you would have to wear a mask!  She publicly stated in the meeting that since the governor said everyone had to mask, that she would have anyone without a mask thrown out of the meeting.

Sure enough, she proceeded to have Kim Powers, advertising manager of the Central City News forcibly removed from the meeting.

The problem with that is that it violates the Louisiana Constitution.  The Louisiana Constitution is very clear. Art XII, Section 3 provides that meetings of governmental bodies in the state shall be open to the public, except as provided by law.  In other words, unless a law has been passed by the legislature to create an exemption, then the meeting is open.

The legislature has never passed a law saying that public meetings can be closed to members of the public that don’t wear a mask. As a result, there is no exemption like that under Louisiana law.  Ms. Holloway was operating illegally and violated Ms. Powers’ constitutional rights.  She wanted to presented evidence against the harmful effects of masking children, but the board never heard that information.

As a result, Kim Powers filed suit against BESE and each of the BESE members asking that BESE be enjoined from barring citizens in the future and that the action taken by BESE during that meeting where they voted to require students to mask be nullified, as required by state law!

What’s at issue here is not masks but whether a decree by the governor can create an exception to the citizens’ right to attend public meetings.

BESE filed an objection, saying that Ms. Powers had no cause of action in the case.  But Judge Fields last week overruled BESE’s  objections, and the suit will proceed.  Ms. Powers’ attorney Alex St. Amant says she will ultimately prevail in this case. She should!  Our rights are under attack today, and a citizen who stands up to the might of lawless government should be commended and supported by all of us!

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