Port Allen council seeks to designate department heads

The City Council hopes the third time will truly be a charm when it comes to adopting an ordinance that will grant department head status to five administrative positions within city government.

Councilman Garry Hubble presented an ordinance to the council for third time Wednesday night seeking to designate the city’s chief financial officer, chief administrative officer, fire chief, police chief and public works director as department heads.

Although Hubble managed to convince a majority of the five-member council to adopt the same ordinance the previous two times, his efforts were always thwarted by the veto power of former mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter.

Slaughter, who served 11 controversial-filled months as mayor of Port Allen, was recalled from office Nov. 16.

A majority of the City Council has said it wanted to bring clarity to the legal status of department heads since Slaughter attempted to fire the city’s chief financial officer, Audrey McCain, without council approval last year.

A state district court judge blocked the mayor’s attempt to dismiss McCain.

The ordinance received the same reception from council members on Wednesday night as it did previously, with councilmen Hugh “Hootie” Riviere, Hubble and R.J. Loupe supporting the measure and councilmen Brandon Brown and Ray Helen Lawrence opposed.

The council’s action set a public hearing for the council’s next regular meeting on March 12 when the council is expected to vote on whether to approve the measure.

Interim Mayor Lynn Robertson said after Wednesday night’s meeting that she has no intention to veto the measure if it is approved by the council.

“It just needs to be done,” Hubble said after the meeting. “I don’t understand why the other two voted against it.”

Brown maintained his previous stance against the proposed ordinance saying it “provided too much protection” to certain city-government employees.

Lawrence left immediately after the meeting, before she could be asked about her vote against the measure.

The council on Wednesday also set public hearings for ordinances it discussed during committee meetings last week to establish better hiring protocols and increased transparency in city government.

The proposed measures, also brought to the council by Hubble, seek to modify the city’s hiring practices, authorize the interim mayor to hire a law firm to update the city’s employee handbook, expand the job duties of the city’s payroll clerk into a human resources director and would require two administrative signatures on all checks issued on the city’s bank accounts.

Many of the measures stem from the council’s frequent clashes with Slaughter while she was in office.

In other business, the council agreed to amend its 2013-14 fiscal year budget allotting an additional $10,182 to the Police Department for the purchase of six 2015 Chevrolet Tahoes.

Police Chief Esdron Brown originally asked for an additional $32,000 on top of the $180,000 the council had already set aside for new vehicles.

Brown said he was able to lower his request by tightening up other sectors in his department’s budget and finding a cheaper way to outfit the new vehicles.