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Q: What is the Louisiana Open Meetings Law?
How does violating this law hurt your household with your disaster recovery?
A: The Open Meetings Law, found in R.S. 42:12 – 42:28, regulates meetings of public bodies.
The Open Meetings Law is meant to ensure that decisions by the government are made in an open forum. The Open Meetings Law operates in conjunction with Louisiana's Public Records Law to insure compliance with Article XII, Section 3 of the Louisiana Constitution's mandate that "No person shall be denied the right to observe the deliberations of public bodies and examine public documents, except in cases established by law." The Open Meetings Law is designed to ensure state integrity and to increase the public's trust and awareness of its governing officials.
Q: What is a public body? R.S. 42:13
A: A "public body" is a village, town, and city governing authority; parish governing authority; boards, such as school, port, or levee boards; any other state, parish, municipal, or special district boards, commissions, or authorities, as well as any of their political subdivisions if the body possesses policy making, advisory, or administrative functions. Any committee or subcommittee of any of these bodies is also a public body.
Specifically, any municipal government, state agency, or political subdivision that has a policy making, administrative, or advisory function is subject to the Open Meetings Law. The law also applies to any official committee of the public body that has been delegated any of these functions by the public body, or any unofficial committee or gathering of the body that consists of a quorum of the body.
AG Op. 10-0155 cites the LA Supreme Court's four factor test for determining an entity's status as public or private: (1) whether the entity was created by the legislature, (2) whether its powers were specifically defined by the legislature, (3) whether the property of the entity belongs to the public, and (4) whether the entity's functions are exclusively of a public character and performed solely for the public benefit [State v. Smith, 357 So.2d 505 (La.1978)]. For a court to determine that an entity is public, all four factors must be present.
Q: How should the Open Meetings Law be interpreted?
According to R.S. 42:12(A), the Open Meetings Law should be construed liberally. This means that if there is a question as to interpretation of a provision the entity should provide as much access/openness as possible. The Open Meetings Law operates with a general premise that all meetings of public bodies should be open to the public. The burden, therefore, is on the individual seeking to engage in closed meetings to prove that an exception applies allowing the closing of the meeting.
Q: What is a meeting?
A meeting is a convening of a quorum of a public body to deliberate or act on a matter that the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power over. A meeting is also a convening of a quorum of a public body by the public body or a public official to receive information regarding a matter that the public body has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power over.
The Open Meetings Law does not apply to chance meetings or social gatherings of members of a public body at which there is no vote or other action taken, including formal or informal polling of the members.
If a gathering consists of a quorum of the body or a meeting of a committee of the body to conduct any business of the body, the gathering should be presumed to be a meeting and, thus, subject to the requirements of the Open Meetings Law.
Q: What is a Quorum? R.S. 42:13(A)(3)
The default definition of a quorum is a simple majority of the total membership of a public body. For example, for town council that has five (5) aldermen, three (3) members would constitute a quorum necessary to conduct business at a meeting. This default definition applies only in the absence of a statutorily defined quorum for the public body, which may be a greater or lesser percentage of the body. The Attorney General (AG) has stated in AG Op. No. 00-0144 that a public body cannot in its by-laws define a quorum as less than a majority of the total members. Such a by-law definition would abrogate the clearly stated definition in R.S. 42:13(A)(3). Absent a statutorily defined quorum for the body, the body's quorum must be a simple majority.
Vacant positions must be counted in determining a quorum and will not reduce the number of members required to be present to conduct business. AG. Op. No. 15-0172.
No official action may be undertaken by the body in the absence of a quorum of the body. A prohibited action, for example, could include debate on an item in the absence of a quorum, coupled with a vote without debate on the item in an open meeting. Members of the body, however, may engage in informal discussion of any matter in the absence of a quorum.
Meetings of public bodies are required to:
- have notice of the meeting at least 24 hours before the meeting via placement of a copy of the notice at the place of the meeting or at the body's official office;
- allow for some means of public comment; R.S. 42:14(D) requires each public body (except school boards) conducting a meeting that is subject to the notice requirement of R.S. 42:19(A), to allow a public comment period prior to action on an agenda item upon which a vote is to be taken.* The governing body may adopt reasonable rules and restrictions regarding this comment period;
- allow for recording of the meeting by the audience;
- record minutes of the proceedings; and
- have "open" meetings – that is, observable to the public with an opportunity for public participation. Public bodies may not close their meetings to the public absent narrowly defined exceptions.
A copy of the Open Meetings Law must also be posted at the location of the meeting.
*School boards are required to allow public comment before taking any vote. The comment period shall be for each agenda item and shall precede each agenda item. R.S . 42:15(A).
- The legal purpose of open meetings is to allow individuals to observe and participate in the deliberations of public bodies. Meetings of public bodies must be open to the public unless closed pursuant to a statutory exception, such as set forth in R.S. 42:16 – 42:18, which authorizes closed executive sessions. Public bodies must provide an opportunity for public comment prior to action on the agenda item upon which a vote is to be taken. The governing body may adopt reasonable rules and restrictions regarding the comment period.
- R.S. 42:14, requires each public body, except school boards, conducting a meeting that is subject to the notice requirement of R.S. 42:19(A), to allow a public comment period prior to action on an agenda item upon which a vote is to be taken.
- A similar obligation is imposed for school boards, except that public comment must occur prior to taking any vote and must occur before each topic and not at the beginning of the meeting. R.S. 42:15.
Q: What are the procedures to add to or delete items from an agenda? R.S. 42:19
Public bodies may adopt procedures for governing their meetings and providing how members may place items on the agenda, provided that such procedures comply with the timelines set forth in the notice provisions of the Open Meetings Law and applicable statutory or charter provisions for the introduction and passage of instruments (i.e. ordinances and resolutions).
To add items to an agenda at the meeting itself, the Open Meetings Law requires unanimous approval of the members present to add an item to the agenda. In no case may a public body, by ordinance, charter provision or policy, lessen this requirement to a majority vote. AG Op. No. 15-0122.
Any motion for a vote to add an item to the agenda shall include with reasonable specificity the subject matter of the additional agenda item and the purpose for adding the item to the agenda. Public comment on the motion must be allowed prior to any vote to add an item to the agenda.
R.S. 42:19, which sets forth the requirements for notice of meetings, states at (A)(1)(b)(ii) that the notice shall include the agenda. Furthermore, any matter proposed that is not on the agenda shall be identified with reasonable specificity in the motion to take up the matter not on the agenda, including the purpose for the addition to the agenda. The matter must also be entered into the minutes of the meeting. Prior to any vote by the public body on the motion to take up a matter not on the agenda, there must be an opportunity for public comment on the motion in accordance with R.S. 42:14 or 15. The public body shall not use its authority to take up a matter not on the agenda as a subterfuge to defeat the purposes of R.S. 42:12 through 23.
Unless required by ordinance, charter provision or adopted policy to the contrary, public entities may remove, table, or withdraw agenda items by a majority vote of those members present.
Date: 3-16-2019 Updated: 3-16-2019 Subject:
Resources published here are segments of research projects of past, present and future. All items published will soon be in articles that tie the subject matter together for the big picture results.
Resource Research is also the way we find things out of place in our world today.
This section is completely keyword search enabled so you can find just the topic you need to support your own research projects or to assist in our research resources. We have created a simple copy link so you can embed or link to the resource if you use any segment of this section.
Keep your information open and transparent at all times. You'll find this section grows often and is currently supported by one person so if you are looking for a specific document or topic related to Disaster Recovery use the submit question.
To submit a question you are actually submitting a research resource topic. Your topic will remain offline until the research has been completed. If you have the research and it can be validated please use the contact pages first.
Date: 12-30-2018 Updated: 3-4-2019 Subject: How To Research
FOIA State of Louisiana OCD-DRU 5-23-2018: Request copies of any communications between the Governors Office (J.B. Edwards) and Restore Louisiana Homeowners Assistance Program related to waiving state requirements that contractors working for Restore LA or IEM Inc tasked with rebuilding, repairing homeowners homes damaged by the 2016 floods (DR4277, DR4263) be licensed and insured as per state contractors licensing board rules, regulations and state laws.
(State of Louisiana Reply)
Your public records request, dated May 23, 2018, was received by the Division of Administration on May 23, 2018. We are conducting a search for records. Once the search is finished, the records will be reviewed for privileges and exemptions. We will contact you as soon as the review is completed, and all non-exempt records will be made available to you.
Public Records Requests
Division of Administration
State of Louisiana
Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-4-2019 Subject:
Requested date: 5-23-2018
As of May 11, 2018
1. Total number of households pending Homeowner Responsibility (Solution 2) and Homeowner Escrow (Solution 1).
Reports do not currently exist that are responsive to your specific public record request. However, with respect to item 2, HUD does publish a quarterly report, the most recent of which is attached, that shows at page 8 of 49 that as of in the first quarter of 2018, 1978 grant awards to LMI households were executed, for a cumulative total of 3321.
Attachment download: Flood DRGR 1st Quarter Reports
Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-4-2019 Subject:
- Franklin Associates, LLC Louisiana Housing Corporation 2/12/2016 6/30/2019 $7,143,250 $3,618,750 To perform environmental reviews and homeowner inspections. CDBG-DR funds represented are related to 2016 Flood Work. Other components of the contract funded through other sources.
- Alpha Media and Public Relations pending New Corp. 5/28/2016 7/7/2016 $33,413 $33,413 Restore LA Marketing and Outreach.
- GrantAnalyst.com, LLC 192237977 Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry 3/16/2017 3/15/2018 $6,100 $6,100 ?Online grant application management system.
- Spears Consulting 837070833 TruFund Financial 5/15/2017 5/15/2018 $40,000 $40,000 Marketing/Public Relations spent as of 11.30.17.
- Start Corporation 859805285 Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals 12/1/2015 6/30/2018 $2,802,482 $2,802,482 ?To provide support services required to help individuals rebuild their lives after homelessness, institutional care or other disruptions due to the Flood of 2016. (multiple sources of disaster funding)
- Volunteers of America 0750049916 Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals 12/1/2015 6/30/2018 $49,999 $49,999 To provide support services required to help individuals rebuild their lives after homelessness, institutional care or other disruptions due to the Flood of 2016. (multiple sources of disaster funding)
- Westaff 788265564 TruFund Financial 5/4/2017 11/30/2017 $25,686 $25,686 Temp Services.
- Xerox Corporation 137644035 Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry 10/16/2017 6/30/2018 $988 $988 Copy machine
You will be receiving, or have already received, an e-mail invitation to access a dropbox from which you will be able to access the documents referenced below.
Please click on this link to view the contracts: Dropbox Link to document download.
Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-9-2019 Subject:
Freedom of Information Request Date: 6-1-2018: I would like to know who and what department created the webpage at this address: http://www.doa.la.gov/Pages/ocd-dru/for_training.aspx
I find it not useful at all and when so many public records are missing from the OCD-DRU website pages I feel this is a waste of government resources to allow to be viewed by the public.
State of Louisiana Response dated 6-5-2018:
Your public record request e-mail, dated June 1, 2018, was received by the Division of Administration on June 1, 2018. Upon review, your e-mail does not present a public records request as described in Louisiana R.S. 44:1(A)(2). As such, we are unable to provide a response.
>>>> NOTES <<<<<
Web page was removed and replaced with a redirect to the main page. The state did not acknowledge the report.
Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-4-2019 Subject:
Freedom of Information Request dated 6-18-2018.
Copy of the OCD-DRU policy regarding NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) ICC (Increased Cost of Compliance) funds with respect to the calculation of duplication of benefits (DOB).
>> State of Louisiana Response 6-22-2018 <<
See attached manual and/or view at this link:Attached Homeowners Manual version 3.1 and download link
pages 51 to 52 of the document pertain to NFIP (building and ICC) and DOB calculation.
Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-4-2019 Subject:
Freedom of Information Request: 6-26-2018, Copy of the "Declined SBA Award Policy".
This document is referenced in
1. "Draft ReLa Program Management Policies (Attachment VII) Page 31 of 189"
2. "Homeowners Manual version 3.1 page 52 under SBA Verification"
>>> Response State of Louisiana <<<
The "Declined SBA Award Policy" is found on page 52 of the manual you refer to in your email below. This is the current policy:
"Applicants who have applied for an SBA loan but have a record of declining the loan or have not executed the SBA loan may be considered for RLHP funding, but awards will be adjusted to account for any SBA DOB. If a low to moderate income (LMI) household has declined an SBA loan, a hardship will be presumed and the SBA loan will not be considered a duplication of benefit. SBA loan declination is defined as an applicant having never executed the SBA loan documents."
When the "verification" paragraph states: RHLP Declined SBA Award Policy – it is referring to the paragraph above it in the manual (see snip image below).
Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-4-2019 Subject:
We publish stories with the intent to help others that follow in our post disaster footprints.
Disaster victims often do not want to relive the ordeal but many that have just became victims or have been searching for answers may learn from your experiences of disasters long past. It is our goal to share with others so we all may rebuild and recover faster. Sharing experiences, post disaster experiences, from cleanup to rebuilding and all points in between. Let's document the processes each victim had to complete after the Presidential Disaster Declaration or the Emergency Declaration has been signed into action.
- We require 600-2400 words.
If you require additional space consider making two or more submissions which we will group together if possible.
- Must have 2 or more pictures that have not been reduced in size or edited to change meta information.
- Must have strong argument about issues that you have experienced.
- You must have researched each issue, point of interest or experience declared and offer resources or sources to provide a solid foundation and weight to your experience.
- Do not cite or copy journalists, editorials or the opinions of others. This is your experience only.
- You allow us exclusive use of your experience article to share with all who are willing to republish your experience in it's entirety without edits or omissions.
- We will take no longer than 10 working days to review and accept your experience article.
- If we feel editing is needed we will return the article to you with notes.
Our goal is to publish everyone's disaster experience.
- Include your experience article in an email, a document attached to an email or our website form.
- Include your disaster record number (DR), name (First,Last), street address, city, state, zip, phone, and email address.
We will use your personal information to verify your disaster experience. We will exclude your name from your article and only reference the DR number. Otherwise you must tell us you would like to release your name with your article and then clearly state what personal information you would like included in your by line.
Date: 12-30-2018 Updated: 12-30-2018 Subject: Your Story
"Gross Negligence, Gross Incompetence and Willful Misconduct, Restore Louisiana Homeowners Program" the series.
Tonight's episode entitled "Gross Incompetence Elevation Costs" episode 1.
NOTE: You might find this a bit humorous, but it's actually based on documented facts of 2 groups separated by 10 years working on flood recovery projects.
Restore Louisiana Homeowners Assistance Solution 2 Reconstruction program is closing in on it's first complete home elevation and reconstruction project.
Despite being handed the full Reconstruction program policy and procedures, Solution 2 Reconstruction team is still in the beginning phases of creating Process and Procedures.
According to research, outsourced workers and management have taken nearly one year to process one homeowner and still have yet to document the steps in processing Solution 2 Reconstruction homeowners.
Historical data shows state workers employed as workers worked more efficiently than outsourced companies hired by state workers.
It was found in the year 2008 that state workers awarded 18,914 homeowners with elevation grant money using the system they called, "Simplified Award Process." Current state outsourced management (2018) refuse to follow the 10 year old proven simplified processes and are determined to make a complicate process more complicate than rocket science.
The states Simplified Award Process distributed 18,914 checks in the amount of $30,000 to homeowners in less than one year. Outsourced Solution 2 Restore Management has yet to establish procedures to determine foundation costs even after being given the procedure by the Solution 1 Reconstruction team.
Stay tuned for the onsite Solution 2 Reconstruction podcast series coming next year, maybe, if policy doesn't change.
Date: 12-30-2018 Updated: 12-30-2018 Subject: State Contractors
Comment: Insurance will be needed or you will get nothing. But even then you will need to know how to navigate a system that the states create to make it impossible for them to navigate. Insurance required to cover federal assistance received.
Financial disaster recovery planning team within the Administration grant funding.
OCD-DRU trainer for all county, parish, city, town planning and zoning departments for HUD compliance training.
Resource: HUD OIG Report 2013-FW-0001
>> Start snip of report page 19,20 <<
Some States Did Not Take Sufficient Steps To Protect the Invested Federal Funds
Some States did not require adequate homeowners' insurance for the homes built or rehabilitated with Disaster Recovery funds. Texas initially did not require insurance. It modified its program for the Katrina, Rita, and Wilma second allocation and, along with Louisiana and Florida, required insurance for 3 years. Alabama adopted a deed restriction that "strongly encouraged" insurance. For the Gustav, Ike, and Dolly allocation, Texas again modified its program and stated insurance was required, but its policy, like Alabama's deed restriction, stated only that failure to maintain insurance "may" impact future disaster assistance. However, Mississippi took an aggressive stance by requiring a transferable covenant that required insurance at all times. These variations occurred because HUD allowed the States maximum feasible deference in the implementation of their Disaster Recovery programs as allowed by the State CDBG program.
HUD needs to adopt a best practice to address the issue of insurance to ensure that the Federal funds invested in the assisted homes are protected in the event of future hurricanes or disasters. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, an additional 10 hurricanes and other storms have hit the States and caused damage. Further, our audit of Texas13 found that Hurricane Ike had damaged homes repaired or replaced by Katrina, Rita, and Wilma grant funds, which lacked insurance. In one extreme case shown in figures 10 and 11, an uninsured home suffered significant structural damage, and the homeowner inquired about additional disaster assistance for his recently replaced home.
The Texas audit also found that of a sample of 59 Katrina-, Rita-, and Wilma funded homes tested, 38 homes were later damaged by another hurricane or storm. Of the 38 homes, 23 did not have insurance. Based on a projection of the sample results, at least 133 of 453 reconstructed or rehabilitated homes or homes awaiting reconstruction lacked insurance and were damaged or are at risk of being damaged by another storm. The report concluded that if Texas changed and improved its action plan and policies, an estimated $60.2 million in program funds could be saved.
For Hurricane Isaac, which struck in August 2012, initial reports estimated damage to 13,000 homes in Louisiana located in the same areas previously affected by Katrina. Since Louisiana required insurance for only 3 years, there is the potential that damage had occurred to Disaster Recovery-assisted homes completed before 2009 that may lack insurance, as the State's required insurance period had expired and nothing would prevent homeowners from seeking additional Federal assistance.
>> End snip of report page 19,20 <<
Date: 12-30-2018 Updated: 12-30-2018 Subject: Transparency
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