By Terry L. Jones
March 27, 2013
PORT ALLEN — Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter said Thursday she still intends to have her brother-in-law serve as the city’s chief of staff, a position she first announced as an “emergency situation” after she fired the city’s chief financial officer.
Ralph Slaughter said he will serve at no charge to the city.
On Wednesday, however, a state district judge ruled the mayor did not have the authority to fire the CFO, Audrey McCain, without council approval.
The mayor had appointed Slaughter, the former president of the Southern University System, in the position she created on Feb. 14. She said previously that Slaughter has the “extensive governmental accounting, auditing and executive management” skills needed to help her address the accounting deficiencies the city was cited for in a recent audit report.
On Feb. 11, Slaughter used the audit’s findings as grounds to fire McCain, an attorney who also had served as a state representative.
Despite McCain’s return to the city hall position, Slaughter said she still needs a chief of staff to assist her with her transition into office.
Deedy Slaughter, who defeated incumbent Mayor Roger Bergeron in the Dec. 8, 2012, election, was sworn into office in early January.
“When I thought about the chief of staff position, I had initial conversations with some people familiar with the mayor’s office,” Mayor Slaughter said in an e-mail Thursday. “It was only after I realized the deficiencies in the financial operations noted by the audit that I realized his (Ralph Slaughter’s) previous experience with the Legislative Auditor office, the Department of Revenue and certification as a CPA would be something I needed right now to assist me with the audit and other issues.”
According to the job description, the chief of staff advises the mayor and provides “extensive professional assistance and recommendations on city issues to the mayor, department and division heads.”
The mayor first announced Slaughter’s appointment at the Feb. 13 city council meeting.
Several residents voiced outrage because of Ralph Slaughter’s controversial ousting from the Southern University System in 2009, which led to a state district judge ordering the former university president to repay $275,000 to the school’s private fund-raising arm for “prohibited transactions” he made with the foundation’s money.
Ralph Slaughter has lawsuits pending in state and federal courts for retaliation and wrongful termination by the Southern board.
The mayor’s appointment was also criticized by a majority of the City Council for ignoring the city’s hiring procedures. Some council members claimed she needs to have the council approve a budget appropriation to pay the salary for the chief of staff position.
But the mayor said Thursday an appropriation from the council is not currently needed because her brother-in-law is working on a “voluntary basis.”
“He has agreed to donate his time until I can verify and determine (maybe through an audit) what is the true status of the city’s budget and finances,” the mayor said.
Ralph Slaughter said Thursday he’s donating his time to assist the mayor because he has a “vested interest” in Port Allen.
“I was happy and honored to see her elected as mayor and wanted to help her through the transition,” he said. “I used to do lectures and seminars for the black mayors association on government accounting. And one of the first things that has gotten mayors in trouble is not knowing how to comply with the budgetary act.”
Councilman Brandon Brown said he doesn’t have a problem with Ralph Slaughter assisting the mayor as long as it is on a volunteer basis.
“I’d appreciate it if more citizens volunteered — if that’s the case,” Brown said.
But Councilman Garry Hubble, chairman of the council’s Personnel and Finance Committee, called the situation “a lawsuit waiting to happen.”
“You can’t have someone not getting paid having access to confidential files,” Hubble said. “Does he have the authority and duties she described? If so, you have confidential information that should not be available to a volunteer. It’s not a good situation for the city.”
The mayor accused those councilmen opposed to the appointment of trying to keep “the status quo” of the previous administration.
She also said the McCain court decision ties her hands.
“The judge not only reinstated Ms. McCain as the CFO, he issued an injunction that technically prohibits me from supervising and directing the CFO in her duties involving the city’s budget, accounting and finance operations,” Slaughter said. “I am concerned about my responsibilities as mayor and I need an administrative staff person who can advise me in those areas since I cannot direct the CFO.”