Port Allen meeting canceled; council was to appoint interim mayor

The task of appointing an interim mayor for Port Allen was handed off to the governor late Monday after the City Council failed to reach a consensus on who should head the city’s administration in the wake of Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter’s recall from office.

The council had 20 days — until 4:30 p.m. Monday — to appoint an interim mayor after Slaughter stepped down Nov. 25. The law says if the council does not select an interim mayor in that time period, the governor makes the selection.

Since Slaughter stepped down, Mayor Pro Tem Ray Helen Lawrence has served as acting mayor pending the appointment of an interim mayor. However, in that position, Lawrence does not hold the full powers of a mayor.

A spokesman with the Governor’s Office said Monday that Gov. Bobby Jindal would make the appointment “in short order” at the urging of city leaders.

In the meantime, the council is concerned about getting a 2013-14 fiscal year budget passed before the end of the year.

It takes an interim mayor to begin the two-week process needed to get a budget approved, including introducing a proposed budget to the City Council and scheduling a public hearing.

On Friday, the council called a special council meeting for 4 p.m. Monday to choose an interim mayor, but the meeting was canceled Monday morning after talks over the weekend indicated council members could not agree on who should be picked and a compromise did not seem likely, Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere said.

“It wasn’t going to be unanimous, so I didn’t see a point in going up there and squabbling over it,” Riviere said.

Riviere was optimistic Friday that council members would come to an agreement until a special election could be held in the spring to find a full-time replacement.

Riviere said Monday that several councilmen would not support his choice for the position, retiree Ted Denstel.

“There have been a few instances where I compromised with other council members but that’s been a one-way street,” Riviere said.

Denstel, 76, is a former president of West Baton Rouge Parish with more than 20 years of administrative experience he gained serving as parish manager.

Riviere said he sent an email to the Governor’s Office with his recommendation for Denstel.

Councilman Brandon Brown said he took issue with Riviere reaching out to the Governor’s Office without the full consent of the council to advocate for Denstel’s appointment.

“Me and Ray Helen Lawrence weren’t included in that,” Brown said.

Brown also said a majority of the council had agreed to support former Mayor Lynn Robertson as interim mayor on Friday.

Robertson, who was the first woman to serve as mayor from 1993 to 2004, works as executive director of the American Institute of Architects of Louisiana.

However, sometime over the weekend, that compromise fell apart.

Councilman Garry Hubble said Denstel was also his first pick for the interim appointment but that he was willing to compromise by supporting Robertson if that was what the rest of the council wanted.

“Our Utopian thought was to have everyone agree. It has happened before,” Hubble said. “Instead we got different votes with a number of us supporting different people.”

As soon as the governor makes the appointment and the interim mayor is sworn into office, Riviere said, the council will immediately set another special-called meeting to re-introduce a budget ordinance.

“The sooner we can get it introduced, the better,” he said.