Mayor denies causing racial divide in Port Allen

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Port Allen Mayor Demetric Slaughter takes notes during a budget discussion at the Port Allen Council meeting Wednesday.
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Port Allen Mayor Demetric Slaughter takes notes during a budget discussion at the Port Allen Council meeting Wednesday.

Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter told the City Council on Wednesday night she is not to blame for causing a racial divide polarizing the community since she took office Jan. 1.

Slaughter, who is black, addressed the council after its three-member white majority approved a resolution denying her the authority to use taxpayers’ money to pay outside lawyers to represent her in a string of lawsuits filed against her so far this year.

Slaughter recalled during her remarks memories of statements she heard while campaigning for mayor last year.

“I had about 5 percent of the white residents outright tell me ‘You’re not going to get nowhere with that council,’ ” said Slaughter, reading from a prepared statement. “As I began to reach out to the three white council members, they made it known (they) would not agree with everything (I) did. So did I divide the city? No.”

This was the first time Slaughter spoke publicly about her time in office since Friday, when a group of citizens opposed to the mayor filed a recall election petition with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office.

But whether Slaughter will adhere to the council’s decision not to pay for her legal counsel in the lawsuits is questionable.

“We’ll need more clarification on that because according to (City Attorney) Victor Woods, if litigation is there and money is in the budget, then I can use it,” Slaughter said after the meeting.

The resolution denying Slaughter public funds for her legal battle was adopted 3-1-1 by the council. Councilmen R.J. Loupe, Hugh “Hootie” Riviere and Garry Hubble voted in favor of blocking the mayor’s ability to bill the city for hiring outside attorneys.

Councilman Brandon Brown voted against the resolution while Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence abstained from voting.

Riviere asked the council to approve the measure because he said the mayor failed to consult with the council before she hired attorneys from the law firm of Phelps Dunbar to represent her in litigation with city Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain.

“The mayor should have come to the council for a budget amendment,” Riviere said.

Slaughter hired the attorneys in May to represent her in an ongoing legal battle with McCain involving several suits McCain filed in connection with her alleged wrongful termination in February.

Slaughter did receive one victory Wednesday night when a motion to override her veto of an ordinance seeking to clarify department head status for five city positions, including McCain’s CFO post, failed to get the 4-1 vote it needed for approval.

The council’s vote Wednesday night mirrored the original vote on the measure with council members Loupe, Riviere and Hubble voting in favor of overriding the mayor’s veto and council members Lawrence and Brown voting in dissent.

Also during the meeting, Slaughter presented the council with her spending plan for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

There was no discussion about the mayor’s proposal. Slaughter announced a public hearing would be held at 5:30 p.m. June 26 to discuss the budget proposal.