Port Allen mayor makes changes as effort to oust her grows
PORT ALLEN — Two Port Allen city councilmen said Monday they are joining the recall effort to have Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter removed from office, claiming she has created such a hostile work environment that five employees chose to quit their jobs recently.
Councilman Garry Hubble said he signed the recall petition over the weekend after finding out Melita Rasberry and Robin Ackerman, two administrative coordinators, told the mayor on Friday they were quitting, effective immediately.
“Enough is enough,” Hubble said Monday. “All of these people wanted their jobs. Some have left with nothing in hand; no prospect of another job. Some have given up retirement benefits. How bad can it be if you’re going to leave without that?”
Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere said Monday he intends to sign the recall petition on Tuesday.
“I’m doing this to show the employees we are willing to try anything to get them some relief,” he said. “Those are two really fine ladies. My heart goes out to them. I texted with both of them today and they’re still both upset.”
The mayor said Monday that she is making changes at City Hall.
Slaughter confirmed, via email, that Terecita Pattan, an administrative coordinator, and two utility clerks, Kaci Daigle and Kathy Pierson, also recently resigned from the city.
Slaughter did not give the women’s departure dates, and the only explanation the mayor gave in response to why the five women quit was, “most of them were offered other jobs.”
“I am limited in my response because this is a personnel matter,” Slaughter said in the email. “My comment on this matter is that I have been requesting the employees of this small office to cross train their individual jobs with another employee who can serve as a backup for their respective work duties. We thank them for their service to the City of Port Allen.”
The mayor said she is reviewing all of the administrative jobs in the city and hopes to combine the duties of several positions before she attempts to fill any remaining vacancies.
But it was revealed during a council committee meeting on Aug. 7 that Slaughter has already filled the utility clerk vacancies.
Hubble and Riviere criticized the mayor’s actions because they said she sidestepped council approval to make the appointments.
“None of these hires have had council approval; no protocol was followed,” said Hubble, chairman of the council’s Personnel and Finance Committee. “This move on the recall is the best thing for the city. We need a change in leadership.”
Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence declined to comment Monday on the recall effort.
Councilmen Brandon Brown said Monday he will not sign the petition.
Councilman At-Large R.J. Loupe said Monday he hasn’t decided whether he will join the recall effort.
“At this point, I’m going to say no, but I’m not going to say no, no, no,” Loupe said. “I don’t want to sign it, but we can’t afford to loose too many more good employees.”
Loupe said he is apprehensive about signing the petition because he briefly served as the mayor after former Mayor Derek Lewis resigned in June 2011 when Lewis was facing federal prison time for his involvement in a bribery-racketeering scandal.
Loupe, Riviere and Hubble filed a lawsuit against Slaughter on June 25 which asserted the mayor had exceeded her executive powers of “supervision and direction” in municipal affairs.
The lawsuit identifies Ackerman as the employee receiving a directive from Slaughter that she be paid a salary of $84,960 despite the mayor’s salary being set by the council at $65,000 a year when she took office Jan. 1.
Slaughter has been the target of a recall since June 7.
The recall group needs 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 has until Dec. 4 to submit the signed petition to the parish’s Registrar of Voters Office.