Port Allen mayor, council get down to business again

Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter and the Port Allen City Council did something Wednesday night residents haven’t seen in six months — they shared a few laughs and managed to amicably discuss city business one day after a state district judge’s ruling chastised them over their very public political battles.

There was absolutely no mention during the council’s committee meetings Wednesday of Judge Alvin Batiste’s rulings in a lawsuit filed against the mayor by three of the city’s councilmen.

Councilmen Hugh “Hootie” Riviere, R.J. Loupe and Garry Hubble asserted in a petition to the 18th Judicial District Court that Slaughter had been exceeding her executive powers in managing municipal affairs since she took office Jan. 1.

The three accused Slaughter of taking several controversial actions they viewed as illegal, including firing the city’s chief financial officer and bumping up by $20,000 a year the mayor’s own salary, both without council approval

After nearly 12 hours of testimony Tuesday, Batiste issued a series of preliminary injunctions against the mayor and also cited the City Council, among other things, for improperly reducing the mayor’s salary from $84,960 to $65,000 annually when it adopted its 2012-13 fiscal year budget.

But on Wednesday, council members introduced no measures to resolve any of the issues addressed in Batiste’s rulings and instead pushed forward with general city business and even agreed to unanimously adopt a resolution next week setting the stage for the parish to begin creating framework for a parishwide fire district.

“The meeting was very professional; it went very smooth,” Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence said after Wednesday night’s session.

The latest council meeting, Lawrence added, “was something we can all be proud of. I think we have a good leader, but for some reason the acceptance of the administration was not very smooth. I think everything will work out very well. It’s just a manner of knowing procedures.”

However, the legal woes for the city seem far from over.

Tuesday afternoon, Baptiste issued a judgment granting city Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain a preliminary injunction against Slaughter affirming the judge’s order prohibiting Slaughter from firing McCain or interfering with her job duties.

Batiste ruled in the matter after he asked McCain’s attorneys on May 29 to submit documents to the court clearly outlining McCain’s job functions as the city of Port Allen’s chief financial officer, municipal clerk and tax collector.

McCain filed the lawsuit that led to Tuesday’s injunctive relief after Slaughter tried to fire her in February.

Batiste on Feb. 20 had blocked the mayor’s action to dismiss McCain and ordered her reinstated on the grounds that McCain could be terminated only with City Council approval because she is a city government department head.

McCain has asked the court to grant a permanent injunction nullifying Slaughter’s attempt to fire her.

McCain also asked the court on April 4 to hold Slaughter in contempt for allegedly interfering with her job following Batiste’s Feb. 20 decision.

In response, Slaughter’s attorneys have asked the judge to dismiss all of McCain’s claims against her, according to court records.

The mayor’s attorneys assert McCain’s case targeting Slaughter is a “blatant attempt to disturb the balance of municipal executive and legislative powers.”

Batiste is set to hear arguments July 31 on the mayor’s petition.