Metro Councilman Joel Boé’s procedural attempt to block other members of the council from allocating $201,000 in discretionary funds on Wednesday proved short-lived. After Boé left the meeting, council members still present reconsidered the issue and approved spending the money.
The proposal to allocate the funds had been placed on the East Baton Rouge Parish council’s agenda as an “administrative matter.” Under the council’s rules, that meant a unanimous vote of the council members present was required to allow it to be considered.
But Boé objected and refused to withdraw his objection despite pleas from Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle and others.
“This has been before us many times before,” Marcelle said. “If we want to set that precedent, that’s fine, I will object every time.”
Other sponsors of the item — Tara Wicker, Ronnie Edwards and Donna Collins-Lewis — echoed Marcelle’s comments.
“My objection stands,” Boé said.
Boé left the meeting during a later discussion, and just before the council adjourned, Marcelle urged the council to reconsider.
The second time, there were no objections to its consideration. Councilwoman Alison Gary voted against its passage.
Council members Chandler Loupe, Scott Wilson and Ulysses “Bones” Addison, did not attend the meeting and did not vote.
“I don’t have a concern in the world,” Marcelle said when asked if she had any concerns about circumventing Boé’s objection. “Everybody knows we have been trying to get this passed for months,” she said.
“We have vetted it so many times.”
Boé did not respond to a message left on his cellphone after the meeting for his response to the council’s action.
With Wednesday’s allocation, the last of the money in the council’s discretionary fund has been allocated. The money was part of $808,850 the council last year shifted from a discretionary fund that previously had been controlled by Mayor-President Kip Holden.
The Louisiana Leadership Institute got the largest share of the funds approved for allocation Wednesday, $76,000. The Leadership Institute is a regional nonprofit founded by former state Sen. Cleo Fields to provide extracurricular services and leadership training for students.
Louisiana Arts and Entertainment, Camelot College Scholarship Foundation, New Hope Baptist Church Drug Program and Abounding Love Freedom School each received $25,000. Another $20,000 went to the Council on Aging; and $5,000 went to Louisiana Elite.
A similar item was rejected by the council in August, with Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois as one of the objectors.
This time, Bourgeois — who had referred to the item as a “money grab” — was a co-sponsor.
“That’s because I’m getting $25,000,” Bourgeois said, clarifying that the money would to go the Camelot College Scholarship Foundation.
Marcelle said getting the item passed as soon as possible was key.
“We are trying to get this money to the streets,” she said.
In other business Wednesday, Councilwoman Collins-Lewis also moved that the Metro Council request that the governing board of the Alsen/St. Irma Lee Fire Protection District appear before council to explain how the district’s rating went from a five to a 10, the lowest possible rating.
Several community members told the council they had seen their home insurance premiums double as a result of the rating change.
“The rating went from a five to a 10 due to mismanagement and misappropriation of funds,” Tracy Batiste said. “We as a community were not aware of the result.”
Several speakers requested that the Metro Council remove three of the board members who were reappointed by the council Aug. 22.
After that August meeting, several residents who attended complained that were not provided an opportunity to speak to the council about the appointments, which were made on the recommendation of Addison, whose council district includes Alsen/St. Irma Lee.
“Y’all have an opportunity to put aside politics,” said Moses Evans Jr., one of the members of Alsen. “Pretend you live in Alsen.”
Several council members said it was the first they had heard of the problem and quizzed Council Administrator Brian Mayers and assistant city-parish attorney Lea Anne Batson on whether they could undo the appointments.
Batson said the board members could only be removed for cause, which would require due process.
Collins-Lewis asked if the Metro Council could require the board members to appear before the council to explain themselves.
City-parish attorney Mary Roper said the council could request the members of the board to appear, or issue subpoenas.
“I want to give them an opportunity to respond,” Collins-Lewis said. The board members would be held accountable “if they cannot answer these allegations,” she said.
The council voted unanimously to request that the board members appear at the next full council meeting Sept. 26.
Updated Thursday, Sept. 13, to add that Councilwoman Alison Gary voted against the discretionary fund allocation.