Port Allen mayor, council members debate budget timing

A City Council majority called into question Wednesday night the actions of Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter in failing to timely produce the city’s proposed 2013-14 fiscal year budget, saying they may not be able to review the spending plan properly before the July 1 deadline for passage.

The budget discussion was unexpectedly inserted into the council’s committee meetings Wednesday night by Councilman Garry Hubble, who confronted the administration about ignoring his request to have the proposed budget placed on the council’s Personnel and Finance Committee agenda.

“We’re getting down to the wire on this,” Hubble said to Slaughter. “I asked to have a budget discussion in the agenda and it was taken out.”

Slaughter replied she told the city’s chief administrative officer to remove the budget discussion from the agenda because Slaughter wasn’t ready to present her spending plan to the council that night.

“As a courtesy, if we want to put something on the agenda (for committee meetings) we should have that right — especially for something as important as the budget,” Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere interjected. “I emailed you requesting a copy of the budget on May 16; three weeks later I’ve seen nothing.”

Riviere told the mayor past administrations presented their proposed budgets to the council in May.

“Its almost like a two-month process and we’re going to try and cram it down in two weeks,” he said.

The city’s current fiscal year budget closes out on June 30.

According to state statute, the mayor is required to submit her proposed budget, along with a proposed ordinance for adoption, to the City Council no later than 15 days prior to the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

The proposed budget must also be made available for public review for at least 15 days prior to the council’s adoption.

Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain did present to the City Council on May 1 a proposed 2013-14 budget McCain had prepared.

But Slaughter killed McCain’s budget proposal, saying McCain had produced the document without consulting her.

“The (state) statute says I have the right to present the budget,” Slaughter said after Wednesday night’s meeting. “I consulted with (McCain) and asked to be a part of it and wasn’t. I got (her) budget two minutes before the (May) meeting started.”

The working relationship between McCain and Slaughter has been strained since the mayor tried to fire the CFO back in February.

Judge Alvin Batiste Jr. of 18th Judicial District Court blocked the mayor’s action, ruling on Feb. 20 McCain could be terminated only with council approval because she is a city government department head.

McCain and Slaughter are locked in litigation stemming from the judge’s ruling.

McCain has asked the court to hold the mayor in contempt for allegedly interfering with her job following Batiste’s Feb. 20 ruling. And Slaughter has asked the judge to dismiss McCain’s case.

Audience members again criticized both the council and mayor Wednesday night about their ongoing conflicts which some say have polarized the community along racial lines.

“I come embarrassed and angry; the city of Port Allen is in the news of every state in the union because of this,” Doloris Kibby, a black woman, said. “The citizens have elected y’all and y’all just do what you want. Everyone is coming here with their chest poking out and face all balled up for confusion and the city is not moving forward.”

Slaughter said she would present her 2014 fiscal year budget proposal to the council during its next regular meeting on Wednesday. The mayor said the budget will most likely be discussed and approved during a special meeting to be called later this month.

“Trust me, we will have it on time,” Slaughter said.