Port Allen has been clouded in controversy ever since Port Allen Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter took office on Jan. 1.
City Council meetings have become a contentious, standing-room-only affair where black residents accuse the council’s white majority — Councilmen R.J. Loupe, Hugh “Hootie” Riviere and Garry Hubble — of racism because they question some of Slaughter’s actions, while white residents aren’t shy in voicing their doubts about the mayor’s ability to properly lead the city.
In the five months she has been in office, Slaughter, a black woman, raised eyebrows when she hired her brother-in-law, Ralph Slaughter, as nonpaid chief of staff, sparked a debate over whether she improperly boosted her salary by $20,000 a year, and faced litigation over her termination of the city’s chief financial officer, Audrey McCain.
The string of controversies led a group of Port Allen residents to begin a recall drive against the mayor, with paperwork filed June 7 with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office. And surprisingly it’s not just white residents who want Slaughter out of office.
Two black women, Deloris Kibby and Millie Ann Jackson, are serving as chairwoman and vice chairwoman, respectively, of the recall effort while businessman John Michael Lockhart, a white man, is organizing the drive.
Lockhart, publisher of The Riverside Reader, said black residents he talked with were “outraged” and “disgusted” with the mayor’s actions.
Kibby said leading the recall effort is something she thought she had to do because Slaughter “doesn’t want to listen to the people. The people need her to know she needs to do the right thing.”
The group will need the signatures of at least one-third — or 1,273 — of the city’s qualified voters at the time the petition was filed in order to get the Governor’s Office to issue a proclamation ordering an election be held for the purpose of recalling Slaughter.
The group hopes to get a recall election on the Oct. 19 ballot. To do so they’ll need to have their signed petition submitted to the West Baton Rouge Registrar of Voters Office by July 1 to be certified.
Lockhart, on Wednesday, declined to say how many people had signed the recall petition.
“We’re not releasing that information,” he said. “We want to keep the opposition from knowing what’s happening.”
Slaughter has said the recall drive will only further divide the community.
Lockhart, however, said both black and white residents have signed the petition.
If the group’s efforts are successful, Lockhart said, the next challenge will be finding a candidate who can fill the remainder of Slaughter’s term, and who could possibly face and defeat Slaughter in that special election.
“The white people present (at our recall meeting) were insistent she be replaced with another black mayor,” Lockhart said, “but blacks in attendance told us not to assume that all (they) want is a black mayor. (They) just want the best mayor.”
Lockhart is convinced it will take another black mayor to unify a community with a majority black voting population.
Black people make up about 60 percent and white people constitute 39 percent of the city’s active voting pool, according to the parish Registrar of Voters Office.
“I don’t think a white mayor will be able to bring the community together,” Lockhart said, “but that’s just what I think. Everyone at the meeting was not of the same opinion.”
Watching what happens next will be, to say the least, interesting.
Terry L. Jones is the Westside bureau chief for The Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.