Jurors working through division

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After months of discord during public meetings, Webster Parish police jurors are working to establish unity.

Members met this week to discuss how committee meetings and information distribution will change.

As a result of jurors asking for more transparency and a desire to be more involved, a tie vote for the jury president for 2017 resulted in Jim Bonsall remaining president.

Bonsall said he hopes changes will alleviate concerns.

“I’m going to attempt to fix the problems that have been brought up,” he said. “I want to make sure we establish an avenue to present ideas and set the stage for communication going forward.

“I think there may be some political things going on and I don’t know to what extent or the root of it, but no matter what has passed, I am focused on there being more unity.”

Bonsall said jurors should feel free to voice their opinion and vote accordingly.

“We can disagree, while all working for the betterment of Webster Parish,” he said.

Nick Cox, who was nominated to be jury president, said he is encouraged to see the jury make adjustments.

“Jurors coming to the table to talk is a move in the right direction as far as transparency goes,” Cox said.

The role the jury plays at large is also of concern to Cox.

“I feel like we can be doing more as a jury to help with things like economic development,” he said. “My personal goal this year is to bring leaders from across the parish together and work towards putting the parish in a better economic situation. As the parish governing body, the jury is situated to bring people together.”

Jurors met with parish attorney Patrick Jackson and reviewed the responsibilities and operations of the jury.

“We went through jury’s business from top to bottom, everything the jury does,” Bonsall said. “We had a lot of good conversation talking about things that don’t always come up in meetings. Everyone had an opportunity to ask questions.”

Bonsall said committees were restructured for this year and he hopes the adjustments provide for transparency and involvement.

“We’ve had talks about looking for things to do that we haven’t been doing,” Bonsall said.

Changes to committees will include a monthly meeting for each committee, even if there is no business to conduct, roll calls at all meetings and fresh eyes on committees.

“In the past, committee meetings were only held when needed,” Bonsall said. “Having one every month should give jurors an opportunity to bring up their ideas and discuss things. There might not be any action, but coming together and talking may help with issues that have been brought up.”

Bonsall said to keep committees from getting stale, jurors may be serving on a different committee.
“This gives others an opportunity,” he said.

A new committee was created to oversee the Office of Community Services, which is also governed by a board.

“Last year was not a good year for the Office of Community Services,” Bonsall said. “I learned that even though they need our approval for somethings, they have operated without our understanding of things on things they do not need our approval on.”

Bonsall said the reason the committee was created is because the jury is responsible for much of the actions of the Office of Community Service.

“We are going to be reviewing procedures and becoming more knowledgeable, aware and involved,” Bonsall said.

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