Livingston council votes to override budget vetoes

The Livingston Parish Council has voted to override Parish President Layton Ricks’ veto of 36 line items in the 2013 budget.

The council also decided during its meeting Thursday night to authorize hiring a third-party engineer to address flooding issues on Eden Church Road, where new work has recently been done.

The council voted unanimously on both issues.

Ricks’ veto of council action came late last month as a continuation of a power struggle between the two branches of parish government, though some council members indicated they want the council and administration to start working together.

The line-item changes made by the council resulted in a budget that is potentially illegal and is an attempt to usurp the authority of the executive branch, Ricks said when he vetoed portions of the budget.

He said it is “tantamount to a monthly budget rather than an annual budget” and that it would require the administration to petition the council regularly for operating expenses.

Prior to the override vote Thursday night, Councilman Chance Parent said that anytime the parish president feels the administration is short of funds, he can come back to the council and ask for more money.

Chris Moody, the council’s attorney, said the parish’s home rule charter requires the council to approve an annual budget based on reasonably anticipated expenditures.

Councilman Ricky Goff said it is his intention “to come back with a good amended budget that will be a yearly budget.”

He said he wants to be sure of the purpose of the expenditures the administration proposes in its budget.

“Let’s just make sure that we work with the parish president and he’s not scrounging for money,” Councilwoman Joan Landry said. “Let’s not make a political thing of this.”

Councilman Delos Blackwell said he hopes the council and administration pull together in the coming year.

Council members made no such comments about Alvin Fairburn and Associates, an engineering firm with which the council has sparred for the last year.

Marshall Harris, who was elected council chairman early in the meeting, said later that he was upset that Fairburn did not send a representative to the meeting to discuss the flooding issue on Eden Church Road where Fairburn did engineering work.

Instead, the firm sent a letter saying that the project hasn’t been completed and that the local drainage district still has work to do on ditches in the area,

Harris said he’s upset that after a $2.2 million project, that flooding is still occurring on Eden Church Road.

“We’ve got a bad problem over there,” Harris said.

The council authorized Ricks to hire a third-party engineer and spend up to $10,000 to evaluate the situation.