INDEPENDENCE — A resolution calling for Independence Mayor Michael Ragusa to take a leave of absence pending the resolution of his recent arrest failed on a 2-2 vote of the town’s Board of Aldermen on Monday.
Ragusa was booked Sept. 27 into Tangipahoa Parish Jail on public intimidation, battery of an officer and resisting arrest, and released on his own recognizance.
The counts stem from an Aug. 6 traffic stop involving Ragusa’s son outside the mayor’s construction business.
Ragusa is accused of threatening Independence Police Officer Jeannine Cruz and slamming a car door on her arm.
Ragusa denied the allegations.
The aldermen were divided Monday over whether the mayor should remain on the job with pay, with two favoring a paid leave of absence, two favoring resignation and one refusing to participate in the vote.
“I feel like if we ask the mayor to resign, we’re saying he’s guilty,” said Alderman Angelo Mannino, who drafted the resolution calling for Ragusa’s leave of absence.
Alderman Calvin Batiste said it would be unfair for taxpayers to continue to pay the mayor if he is not working.
Batiste called instead for Ragusa to resign, and Alderman Mike Muscarello agreed.
Alderman Jimmy Gregory said the board should be focused on the budget and keeping the town afloat, rather than arguing over the mayor’s case.
“Regardless of what happens with the mayor, we still have a town to run here,” Gregory said. “If you feel that this inhibits your ability to run the town, then maybe you are the one who needs to not be in office.
“We have policies and procedures to keep one man from running five,” he said.
Much of the discontent with the mayor stems from the budget, rather than his recent arrest, resident Jeanette Patenella said in arguing for Ragusa to stay on the job.
“There is more going on than just this resolution,” Batiste acknowledged. “We need new leadership.”
Batiste said Ragusa, who began his second term as mayor on July 1, has done a poor job of managing the town’s budget.
“I think the mayor should resign, not because of the charges, but because of his mismanagement of funds,” Batiste said.
Mannino’s resolution also pointed to “ongoing conflict” between the mayor “and one of the town’s departments.”
Ragusa has said there may be hard feelings resulting from his attempts to cut the Police Department’s budget.
Police Chief Frank Edwards III has called that “ridiculous.”
Aldermen Mannino and Larry Cardaronella voted in favor of the resolution calling for Ragusa’s leave. Batiste and Muscarello voted against, and Gregory abstained.
Ragusa could not be reached for comment on the board’s action Monday.