P.A. Council getting back to business

Written by Emily Bell on . Posted in Local

The Port Allen city council will tackle a packed agenda, heavy on Personnel & Finance-related matters, for Wednesday night’s city council meeting.

The council is set to:

• discuss the provisions for police cars,

• consider the mayor’s formal re-appointment of CFO Audrey McCain as municipal clerk

• introduce an ordinance modifying the city’s hiring and firing laws

• introduce an ordinance requiring two signatures on all city checks

• create a new position to the effect of a Protective Inspections/Facilities Custodian

• formally create the position of Human Resources Director/Head Payroll Clerk

• authorize the mayor to sign a contract with Kean Miller law firm to update the city’s handbook.

McCain has served as CFO since October 2011 and concurrently as municipal clerk since December 2011. However, state law requires the mayor, “subject to confirmation by the board of aldermen,” to appoint a municipal clerk at the first meeting following a regular election. In January 2013, former mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter failed to do that.

On Feb. 11, 2013, Slaughter fired McCain as CFO and said she would not be appointing her as municipal clerk. Two days later, on Feb. 13, former city attorney Victor Woods determined that McCain was still municipal clerk, absent the council voting to appoint a new one. On Feb. 14, a state judge agreed with Woods and also reinstated McCain as CFO.

Slaughter also made several hires that a majority of the city council contested because they argued the city’s hiring protocols were not strictly followed. Six employees, including the city attorney, quit during Slaughter’s administration.

City councilman Gary Hubble said he wants the city’s hiring and firing ordinance to have “some more teeth in it.”

He said if certain protocols, which will be outlined in the new ordinance, are not followed, the hire will be considered invalid.

McCain said the ordinance will not be retroactive.

“It’s not firing anybody,” she said.

Hubble said changing the ordinance is “only fair to the public.”

Payroll Clerk Robin Ackerman is already working concurrently as Human Resources Director per the conditions of a Jan. 9 settlement with the city, but Mayor Lynn Robertson said the city council needs to formally create the joint title.

Ackerman has trained in Human Resources before, but she is currently undergoing more extensive Human Resources training at LSU.

“We do want to focus her more in the Human Resources area,” Robertson said.

City councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence, who has often touted the city’s need for a Human Resources department, favored Ackerman’s greater focus on Human Resources because she said, “We will probably have fewer lawsuits.”

Last year Port Allen settled several employment-related lawsuits.

The introduction of an ordinance requiring two signatures on all city checks follows Slaughter’s move last year to remove McCain’s signing authority on all the city’s bank accounts, a move which Lawrence (as Mayor Pro-Tempore) later reversed. Previously, the mayor and the CFO had co-signed every check.

City auditor Howard Tull said in December, “as a technical issue” and as city law stands, two signatures are not required. Hubble said the ordinance would provide greater checks and balances within city government.

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