BY Bobby Ardoin
Special to The Advocate
October 23, 2012
OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish Council, acting on the advice of its attorney, voted unanimously at a special meeting Thursday to rescind four of five ordinances that the council approved in August after overriding vetoes by Parish President Bill Fontenot.
Fontenot filed a request in state District Court for a restraining order to block the council from implementing the ordinances.
Fontenot said that a hearing in connection with the restraining order for one of the ordinances, which allows voting power for a Historic District Commission, is set for 10 a.m. Friday in 27th Judicial Court in Opelousas. The case will be heard by retired District Judge Ronald Cox, he said.
Cox presided over 15th Judicial District cases that include Lafayette, Vermilion and Acadia parishes from 1980 until retiring in December. The Louisiana Supreme Court appointed the retired judge to hear the case because the four district judges in St. Landry Parish have their offices funded by parish government.
The council voted in August to pass the five ordinances, including the historical district commission, but Fontenot voted a week later to veto them.
Fontenot filed for a restraining order to block implementation after the council voted to override his vetoes.
The four ordinances rescinded Thursday included the council’s charging of a 4 percent fee to administer the Evangeline Downs slot machine proceeds that are remitted to parish government.
The others deal with cooperation by parish government employees during internal investigations, the prohibition of video poker funds for employees’ salaries and inter-fund transfers of revenue collected by the parish government.
Council Chairman Wayne Ardoin said Thursday that the council passed the Historic District Commission ordinance so the committee would retain its voting power in matters affecting the Delta Grand Theater in Opelousas and other structures with historic significance.
The parish government purchased the Delta Grand building several years ago.
Fontenot has proposed that the Historic District Commission have advisory power only, which means the commission is limited to making recommendations to parish government.
On Thursday, Fontenot said he filed for the restraining order because he believes passage of the five ordinances challenges the language of the parish’s Home Rule Charter form of government.
“The only way to change the charter is by a vote of the people,” Fontenot said.
Ardoin said the council was advised by attorney Michael Skinner to rescind the ordinances Thursday and reintroduce them at another meeting.
“Mr. Skinner advised us to take this (rescinding) action so that we can change the original wording of them and bring them back before the council at a later date,” Ardoin said.
Skinner, a Lafayette attorney, was hired in August to represent the council in several legal matters against Fontenot, including the restraining order.
Councilmen Dexter Brown and Alvin Stelly did not attend the meeting.