Letter: St. Landry tourism commission appointments violate state law

The St. Landry Parish Council apparently has been failing to follow state law when council members have made appointments to the seven-member parish-wide Tourist Commission, according to a retired commission director.

Parish council members were told in a letter written by former parish tourism director Celeste Gomez that state law requires tourism commission nominees submitted to the council for appointment to originate from lists compiled by private or non-profit groups that have an interest in the tourism industry.

In some cases, this is not being done, Celeste indicated in her letter.

“Unfortunately this legislative law is not being adhered to by the (parish) Council and this has been brought to the attention of (St. Landry) District Attorney Chad Pitre. The Council must follow the law as written,” Gomez wrote in a Jan. 1 letter that was received at a Jan. 5 Public Works Committee meeting.

Herman Fuselier, the current parish tourism executive director, presented the committee with the letter, which also stated that the current three-year terms for the seven appointed tourist commission members are scheduled to expire Feb. 19.

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Gomez also provided the council with several possible private or non-profit groups that the state statute would probably find appropriate in providing tourist commission nominations.

Among the groups acceptable to nominate commission appointees are town mayors, cultural associations, museum or attraction boards, chambers of commerce, historic district committees, Main Street boards, merchant associations, restaurant owners, lodging partners and even organizations, the letter specified.

Gomez’s letter added that parish citizens who have professional experience in marketing, promotion, graphic arts, social media, advertising, photography, journalism and historic preservation would quality as nominees.

Fuselier reminded the committee that the City of Eunice, which has the second largest population in St. Landry, currently lacks representation on the commission.

Despite having several nominees from Eunice, the council’s last two appointments made in 2019 and again in 2021 were confirmed for individuals living in either Opelousas or just west of the city.

“We need to follow the proper guidelines. It’s gotten so that we (the Council) just pick who we want,” said council member Coby Clavier. “We need to follow the law and pick the people that are qualified.”

Council member Harold Taylor told the committee that it’s time for the tourist commission to reflect areas of the parish other than Opelousas.

“It seems we have gotten carried away and right now we’ve got (the appointments) lopsided,” Taylor added.

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At a January 2020 meeting, council member Jerry Red, Jr. whose election district lies within the Ward One area comprising Opelousas said Commission membership shouldn’t be decided “solely on residency.”

Parish council member Wayne Ardoin said at the same meeting that the St. Landry Tourist Commission was chartered in 1981 on legislation authored by former state Sen. Armand Brinkhaus.

Ardoin said the tourist commission oversees a 4% parish-wide hotel and motel occupancy tax to support the parish visitors center located off Interstate 49 at the Nuba exit, in addition to providing revenue for advertising and public relations.

This article originally appeared on Opelousas Daily World: St. Landry tourism commission appointments may violate state law