Jurors unhappy about gaming allocation bill

Why would two state legislators file a bill aimed at telling the parish how it should use its gaming funds -- without even talking to the Calcasieu Police Jury or administration about it. Most jurors are at the very least mystified, while some appear downright angry.

Representatives Chuck Kleckley and Brett Geymann have filed a bill aimed at telling the jury how it should spend its gaming funds and did so without any discussions with the jury or parish officials. "No one knew what was going on," says Police Juror Elizabeth Griffin.

Over the years the parish has provided grants to various cities and agencies from gaming funds for a wide range of projects large and small. "Whether it's fire boards, water boards, sewerage boards, drainage boards," Juror Sandy Treme says they always try to help where needed.

Some jurors are upset, particularly because Kleckley used to be a police juror. Juror Elizabeth Griffin told her colleagues, "What really hurts me is that one of our own, who we nurtured, and who we helped to get to Baton Rouge, did not think enough of us to come to us with this issue."

As well, jurors, many of whom have full time jobs or businesses, are miffed to be told a meeting with the legislators is only possible if they travel to Baton Rouge.  Juror Guy Brame asked why they couldn't meet locally.  "Both of those state representatives live here in Lake Charles, so I don't know why we can't meet here."  Juror Claude Syas echoed his sentiments, "Why do we have to go to Baton Rouge to talk to our local representatives."

Exactly what prompted the bill is unclear, but Juror Shannon Spell from Moss Bluff says he believes the lawmakers have good intentions.  "It is my opinion that this is a solution, an effort to present a solution, to address some very extraordinary needs in the unincorporated areas of the parish. I really don't believe that there is any attempt here to attack or criticize previous or past actions of the jury." A meeting to discuss the bill is set for Tuesday in Baton Rouge.

Contacted by phone, Representative Chuck Kleckley says the bill aims to better address the critical and urgent needs of sewerage, water and drainage in some of the most heavily populated areas of the parish -- Moss Bluff, Carlyss and South Ward Three in particular.

Representative Brett Geymann adds, it's his hope that a formula for allocating gaming funds can be agreed upon that will be acceptable to all.

They say the meeting Tuesday is in Baton Rouge so all local legislators can be there.  Click here to read the text of the bill.  Eventually the bill is expected to be amended to set forth a specfic breakdown of how legislators want Calcasieu gaming funds allocated.