PORT ALLEN — Three City Council members on Thursday denied allegations of harassment, discrimination and civil rights violations outlined in a letter that Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter has said she sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Slaughter, who is black, claims in her two-page letter dated Tuesday that Councilmen R.J. Loupe, Hugh “Hootie” Riviere and Garry Hubble, who are white, have been conspiring with “certain white staff members” in her administration to mislead the public by spreading false information.
Slaughter said Wednesday that she asked Holder to investigate the councilmen’s actions since she took office Jan. 1.
On Thursday, Loupe and Hubble said they had not read Slaughter’s letter to Holder, but both councilmen disputed the mayor’s accusations and denied leaking any information to the media.
“I’ve been on the council a long time and I’ve never went through what I’m going through now,” Loupe said. “She just does things that are totally out of order. Right now, it feels like we’re in a burning barn and I don’t know where to go.”
Hubble, who has been pushing the council to adopt a resolution clarifying the status of city government department heads, described Slaughter’s allegations as “ridiculous and ludicrous.
“If you want to accuse me of harassment and discrimination, you have a long road ahead of you,” Hubble said. “Unfortunately, people are painting this as a black and white issue, probably because that’s the only defense they have.”
Riviere said he had read Slaughter’s letter and welcomes any investigation into the council’s actions.
“The accusations she’s throwing out there — she doesn’t know me,” Riviere said. “She doesn’t know what’s inside my heart. I welcome any investigation into any and everything I’ve done as a city councilman. My record can stand on its own. Yeah, some of the votes I made some may view as controversial, but every vote I made was well thought out.”
During Wednesday’s council meeting, the mayor said she contacted Holder after the council voted 3-2 along racial lines to ask the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to open an investigation into her actions since she took office.
Among the mayor’s actions that some council members want investigated are the following:
- Increasing her salary by more than $20,000 a year — from $65,000 annually to $84,960 — without council approval.
In a Jan. 8 legal opinion, City Attorney Victor Woods said Slaughter was within her rights to increase her salary because of how the council handled the pay ordinance.
- Naming her brother-in-law, former Southern University President Ralph Slaughter, to serve as her unpaid chief of staff, a job the mayor created without council approval.
- Billing taxpayers for a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend President Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Critics have said it appears to Slaughter’s trip was of no value to Port Allen.
Loupe, Hubble and Riviere voted in favor of seeking the investigation of Slaughter. Council members Ray Helen Lawrence and Brandon Brown, two black council members, voted no.
Before the reading of the resolution urging the investigation, Slaughter said she had already reached out to Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell requesting that he investigate the same issues.
Slaughter’s letter to Holder accuses her council opponents of the following:
- Hiring city Chief Administrative Officer Adrian Genre, a convicted felon who is white, over the protests of some of the city’s black residents.
Slaughter said the previous administration of then-Mayor Roger Bergeron and the council’s majority at the time, all of whom are white, had hired Genre. He pleaded guilty in 2000 to perjury in a federal civil-rights lawsuit filed against the city and police during his tenure as chief.
- Trying to control the hiring and firing of all city employees.
“They now want to adopt a retroactive ordinance that would make the staff members of the Mayor’s Office department heads so the council can control the positions,” Slaughter wrote. “They do not want me as mayor to hire any assistants but to keep the white assistants they have hired.”
- Disregarding the legal opinions of Woods because of his race.
“Certain white staff members” emailed the white council members and told them to ignore Woods’ legal opinion because they would provide legal advice to the councilmen, Slaughter’s letter says.
In her letter to Holder, Slaughter said she has been in office “for less than three months, but I refuse to surrender the Mayor’s Office to them,” referring to the white council members.
“If they are allowed to use the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office to criminally investigate black elected officers who do not submit to them or who disagree with them,” Slaughter wrote, “this type of violation of Civil Rights, discrimination and harassment will have a serious impact and disenfranchise the voting rights of the black citizens of this city and this state.”