Port Allen mayor, council debate SUV purchase

City Council members clashed Wednesday night with Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter over her decision not to sign off on a check to purchase a sport utility vehicle for the city Fire Department.

The council asked the mayor to explain why she refused to honor the city’s commitment to buy a 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe for the Fire Department after Chief Rick Boudreaux disclosed the mayor had canceled the transaction during a session of the council’s Public Safety Committee.

“I didn’t know anything about it; it was just placed on my desk two weeks ago,” Slaughter told the council. “I thought it was just for a truck to be repaired or something. The contract was done without my knowledge.”

The mayor said she asked the city’s chief administrative officer to furnish minutes from past City Council meetings when the vehicle’s purchase was discussed and reportedly approved. Slaughter said she also asked for an audio recording of those meetings as well.

“I have not had any of that brought to me,” she told the council.

Slaughter also blamed her decision on not being properly briefed on the city’s pending business matters by the administration of former Mayor Roger Bergeron when she took office in January.

“I had no transition as to what all was going on,” she said. “I came in on the blind side.”

Boudreaux said the City Council approved the purchase of the new, $30,000 SUV in June, but the vehicle didn’t arrive at the dealership until last month due to a series of paperwork setbacks.

Because the city is defaulting on its commitment to purchase the vehicle, Boudreaux said, the mayor’s actions could jeopardize the city’s ability to purchase items on state contract in the future.

He said the state contract program is a routine practice that allows municipalities such as Port Allen to save thousands of dollars on the purchase of big-ticket items such as motor vehicles.

“The truck has been sitting for 20 days now,” Boudreaux said. The dealer, he added, “has had to pay interest on it by holding it there for us.”

Bergeron, attended Wednesday night’s meeting, but he walked out after Slaughter shut down discussion on the issue.

Slaughter did say she would meet with the fire chief to discuss the matter further.

“This was a routine transaction; the mayor was notified about this three weeks ago when the truck came in,” Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere said during a telephone interview after the meeting.

“It was a budgeted item,” Riviere said. “Municipalities do this every day. For her to say she thought it was a part (for a vehicle repair), I don’t understand. It said clearly on the purchase order what was this was for.”