With recall done, Port Allen council to tackle budget again

Members of the City Council agreed Sunday that one of their first priorities in the wake of Port Allen Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter’s recall is to take another stab at adopting a 2013-14 budget before city departments run out of money.

Council members also agreed Slaughter’s ousting in Saturday’s recall election won’t heal the wounds that have polarized the community — including the five-member council­ — down racial lines during her 11-month tenure as mayor.

“I don’t think it’s as divided as it seems, (but) time will have to heal those wounds,” Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere said. “I think once we as the council start working together again, it’ll happen.”

State law requires that Slaughter step down as mayor by 4:30 p.m. Nov. 25 unless she contests the election.

If she does file a lawsuit, a judge must hold a hearing within four days of the filing.

In Saturday’s election, 57 percent of Port Allen voters supported a grass roots effort to remove Slaughter from office and 43 percent voted against it, according to the unofficial results from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office.

The recall effort against Slaughter was launched less than six months into her first term as mayor by a group of residents who said Slaughter had racially divided the community and embarrassed the city through several controversial decisions, including attempting to fire the city’s chief financial officer without council approval and hiring her brother-in-law as her nonsalaried chief of staff.

Slaughter vetoed the city’s 2013-14 budget Nov. 4 after the City Council voted 3-2 to adopt its amended version of the mayor’s budget.

Councilmen Riviere, R.J. Loupe and Garry Hubble voted in favor of the 2013-14 amended budget, which they worked on with Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain.

Council members Ray Helen Lawrence and Brandon Brown opposed the budget’s adoption, mainly because they said the three councilmen excluded them from budget revision talks.

The council’s inability to muster the two-thirds majority vote it needed Nov. 13 to overturn Slaughter’s veto placed the city’s Fire Department in danger of shutting down as early as Nov. 25 due to a lack of funding, McCain said before the election.

Brown said Sunday that further revisions would have to be made to the budget for him to support it.

“We need to make changes to it that benefit the entire city,” he said. “We need more police protection in mine and Mrs. Lawrence’s districts. We have to actually listen to the police chief because he wasn’t initially getting anything he asked for.”

Brown also said he wants the council to set aside funds to invest in the city’s growth and development.

Lawrence said Sunday she’ll be pushing for the creation of a human resources position and funding for sidewalk development for a subdivision in her district.

Riviere said he would reach out to council members Sunday night to gain insight into how they think the council should proceed in the wake of Slaughter’s recall.

He expects the council to call a special meeting sometime this week since it also must appoint an interim mayor within 20 days after the mayor vacates her post.

If council members can’t agree on an appointment within that time frame, the governor steps in and names someone.

Councilwoman Lawrence, the city’s mayor pro tem, will serve as mayor after Slaughter vacates the office until an interim is appointed.

None of the council members expressed an interest Sunday in being appointed interim mayor because it would mean vacating their council seats, and if they wanted to keep the position, running again during primary elections April 5.

Slaughter also can run for the mayor’s position in the April 2014 election.

“I’m for letting the governor do it,” Loupe said about naming the interim mayor. “He’d probably pick someone the council brings up anyway.”

Hubble said he’s not opposed to the governor naming a temporary replacement.

“There are a host of issues you have to look at. We don’t want to send the wrong message,” he said.

“We’re in the process of healing and don’t want to jeopardize that. We want everyone to come together.”

Hubble said Slaughter’s recall will help restore confidence in City Hall and open up doors for the city’s business development.

“I’m tickled pink I can finally work for the city and not have to deal with this other mess,” Hubble said.

Brown said he was less optimistic about the city’s immediate future.

“We’re still in a controversial situation,” Brown said. “I don’t believe this will bring the city together.

“If you look at social media, the city has not come together. If that was the case everyone would have voted for the recall.”