Gonzales 3 again amend Arceneaux’s proposed budgets

The Gonzales City Council’s deadlock over new city budgets continues as three councilmen again voted to amend the ones presented by Mayor Barney Arceneaux.

In a new twist, audience members began chanting “Recall. Recall. Recall” minutes after the meeting ended Monday.

Two of the three voting to amend the proposed budget — councilmen Gary Lacombe and Timothy Vessel — are the subjects of a recall effort.

Arceneaux has twice vetoed general fund and capital outlay budgets because of funding cuts to the Gonzales City Police Department and the Ascension Economic Development Corp. made by three of the five councilmen.

On Monday, after Arceneaux proposed budgets for the current fiscal year — his third such action since April — Councilman Terance Irvin motioned to again reduce Arceneaux’s budget line item for the Police Department from $437,261 to $327,000.

Irvin said additional surveillance cameras sought by Police Chief Sherman Jackson “are a ‘want’ in my opinion and not a need.”

“They can be moved into next year’s budget,” Irvin said.

Jackson noted that the current surveillance cameras in the city “are out there 24/7” and added there was a burglary last week in Irvin’s neighborhood that a surveillance camera might have been able to help solve.

“My budget is solid,” Jackson said. “These are the tools we need.”

Irvin also made a motion to cut Arceneaux’s funding for the economic development organization from $75,000 to $50,000.

Both of Irvin’s motions were seconded by Vessel and approved 3-2, in the now familiar pattern on the deeply divided council, with Lacombe also voting for the amendments to the proposed budget.

Councilmen Kenny Matassa and Kirk Boudreaux voted against the amendments.

The City Council will vote on the amended budgets at its next meeting on Sept. 8.

After the meeting, Arceneaux said it is too early to say whether he might veto the proposed capital outlay and general fund budgets for the third time.

“We’ve got another two weeks. We’ll look at running the facts and figures,” he said.

Irvin, Lacombe and Vessel also approved a motion, made by Irvin, to seek an opinion from the state Attorney General on whether there is a conflict of interest in City Attorney Ryland Percy’s donation to Save Gonzales, a nonprofit organization seeking to recall Vessel and Lacombe.

Irvin also made another motion, which passed 3-2, to seek an opinion from the state attorney general “concerning forcing the city to comply with the five-year term requirement for Planning and Zoning members,” according to the wording in the meeting’s agenda.

Members of the commission are nominated by the mayor and approved by the council.

Earlier this summer, Lacombe asked for an opinion from the attorney general on the very same matter.

In a July 18 letter, Assistant Attorney General Kurt Wall wrote Lacombe that “courts have been very clear that an appointing authority cannot be mandated to make an appointment” to the commission, referring to the mayor as the appointing authority.

Lacombe recently sought to have two members of the commission who have served beyond the five-year term removed.

Asked after the meeting why he was seeking an opinion from the Attorney General on the same issue, Irvin said, “We didn’t feel comfortable with the way we asked (before), so are trying” a different tack.