Port Allen mayor fires chief financial officer

Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter informed members of the City Council on Monday that she fired Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain in response to recent audit findings that cited weaknesses in the city’s accounting practices.

The mayor sent the council a letter Monday in which she announced McCain’s firing.

Slaughter said in the letter that she also was stripping McCain of her duties as the city’s municipal clerk, another title held by the city’s chief financial officer.

The mayor said in the letter that Section 2-136 in the city’s ordinances as well as state statute R.S. 33:404 gives her the authority to fire McCain.

But Councilman Garry Hubble said Monday that the mayor’s actions are a direct violation of the city’s ordinances, which he said stipulates personnel decisions involving the city’s department heads be ratified by the City Council.

“This is wrong. This is wrong for the citizens,” Hubble said Monday afternoon. “Anybody that would dismiss McCain as CFO — with all the knowledge she possesses — is ridiculous. I really don’t know what’s going on.”

In response, Slaughter said she could not locate any city ordinance establishing the city’s chief administrative officer or chief financial officer as department heads. Slaughter described the two positions as “administrative staff to the mayor” in a Jan. 18 letter to Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere.

Council President Ray Helen Lawrence said she briefly spoke with the mayor Monday morning, but declined to comment on McCain’s ousting.

McCain could not be reached for comment Monday.

City leaders were presented with an audit Jan. 9 conducted by the Baton Rouge accounting firm of Provost, Salter, Harper and Alford that said there were several “weakness” in administrative accounting practices. The audit, which was sent to the state Legislative Auditor’s Office, also revealed residents had been overcharged for natural gas during the fiscal year, which ended June 30.

“Those findings were under (McCain’s) watch,” Slaughter said Monday.

In previous reports, McCain said the weaknesses cited in the audit findings occurred before she took office Oct. 1, 2011.

“The Legislative Audit Council is requesting a written response of the corrective action taken or to be taken, including specific steps/procedures to be used to correct the findings,” Slaughter said in the letter to the council Monday.

The city was given 30 days to present its corrective action plan to the state’s Audit Council, according to a Feb. 4 letter from the state’s Legislative Auditor’s Office.

The mayor would not comment Monday afternoon on whether she would hire a new chief financial officer.

However, Slaughter did say she intends to create a new chief of staff position for the city and announce her appointment at the council’s meeting Wednesday.

Slaughter said the chief of staff would serve as her primary assistant and be a liaison between her and the city’s department heads.

The new position already has been advertised and Slaughter said she received six applications for the spot.

The mayor would not comment Monday on the position’s salary or reveal if she had already chosen someone to fill the position.