OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish Council on Wednesday night voted to override the vetoes of Parish President Bill Fontenot for five ordinances.
Before Wednesday, the council had never successfully overridden a parish president’s veto of an ordinance.
In 2011, the council attempted but failed to override a council-approved trail ride ordinance vetoed by former Parish President Don Menard.
During his eight-year term, Menard vetoed one council ordinance. Since becoming president in January, Fontenot has vetoed six council ordinances.
Also later in the meeting, the Council voted 10-2 to hire an attorney in connection with Fontenot’s placing of Community Action Agency Director Donald Robinson on paid administrative leave Aug. 10.
Fontenot said Monday that he decided to place Robinson on leave while he conducts an investigation about how the CAA handled weatherization contracts and utility bills for low-income residents.
Council member Pam Gautreau said Wednesday that the CAA’s bylaws allow the Council to appoint or fire the CAA director.
That authority, Fontenot said, belongs to the parish president, not the council, according to his powers in the home rule charter.
Fontenot announced the vetoes earlier this month after the council approved ordinances concerning the St. Landry Parish Historical Development Commission, slot machine proceeds at Evangeline Downs Racino, cooperation of the president with internal investigations, the use of racino and video poker funds for employee salaries and inter-fund transfers of parish revenues.
Under St. Landry’s Home Rule Charter, an override of the parish president’s veto requires a two-thirds vote of the 13-member council. Council Chairman Wayne Ardoin was not required to vote on the overrides.
On the slot machine proceeds distribution, the Council voted 9-3 to override the veto. The veto override means that the slot machine revenues distributed to parish government will pay for road materials.
Before the vote, Fontenot told the council that in his opinion, any override would usurp the power of the parish president.
Voting to override the veto were Jerry Red Jr., Fekisha Miller-Mathews, Huet Dupre, Ronald Buschel, Jimmie Edwards, Gautreau, Dexter Brown, Timothy LeJeune and Gary Courville.
Leon Robinson, Hurlin Dupre and Alvin Stelly voted against the motion.
The council voted 8-4 to reinstall members of the Historical Development Commission.
Fontenot’s veto made the Historical Development Commission an advisory commission without any voting power. The commission had authority to oversee the operation of the parish-owned Delta Grand building and other historical buildings in the parish.
Voting to override the veto were Red, Miller-Mathews, Huet Dupre, Buschel, Edwards, Gautreau, LeJeune and Courville.
Hurlin Dupre, Stelly, Brown and Robinson voted “no.”
The Council also voted 8-4 to override the veto in connection with the parish president’s cooperation with internal investigations.
Before the vote, Fontenot said there are provisions in the charter that allow the parish president control over parish employees.
In response, Gautreau said the charter says the parish president has no authority to veto any action the council takes in connection with investigations.
The council has hired a private investigator to examine the findings of a 2011 internal audit that questions the receipts of a credit card used by Menard and $57,000 spent for hangar construction at the St. Landry Parish airport.
Voting for the override were Miller-Mathews, Huet Dupre, Buschel, Edwards, Gautreau, Brown, LeJeune and Courville.
Stelly, Red, Robinson and Hurlin Dupre voted against.
The Council voted 9-3 to override Fontenot’s veto concerning inter-fund transfers of parish revenues.
The internal audit also questioned the manner in which revenues were distributed among various funds.
Red, Robinson, Miller-Mathews, Huet Dupre, Buschel, Edwards, Gautreau, LeJeune and Courville voted for the issue.
Brown, Hurlin Dupre and Stelly voted no.
The other veto override, approved 9-3, ensures that racino and video poker funds will be used only for road materials.
Miller-Mathews, Red, Huet Dupre, Robinson, Buschel, Edwards, Gautreau, LeJeune and Courville voted for the override. Brown, Hurlin Dupre and Stelly voted against it.