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Judge rules in favor of CFO

Written by Emily Bell on . Posted in Local

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Port Allen CFO Audrey McCain is back at work after a state judge ruled in favor of McCain last Wednesday, saying Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter did not have the authority to fire her.

Meanwhile, former Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter has begun working as the mayor’s appointment for Chief of Staff, at no charge to the city.

Mayor Slaughter said after the hearing last Wednesday, “[Ralph] has made the call to say that he is going to work without having a salary.”

Ralph said in a phone interview Tuesday he even helped the mayor during her transition in office and just wants the mayor to be successful.

“It’s never been about any money,” he said.

Ralph gave the name of the man whom the mayor alleges helped McCain with the city’s finances. Ralph said his name is Frank Feduccia and that $22,000 was spent on Feduccia’s help from Sept. 27, 2012 to Jan. 3, 2013.

Ralph said this amount went over budget, including another $30,000 paid to the CPA firm Provost, Salter, Harper & Alford, LLC who did the most recent audit of the city. He said the city had to pay this extra money to the firm, “for [their] time spent correcting numerous errors.”

According to the audit, Provost, Salter, Harper & Alford recommended accounts reconciled monthly and monthly reports given to the council. The firm also recommended, “that the City evaluate the staffing level and evaluate the job duties of the accounting personnel to help with the oversight of the accounting function and segregation of duties.”

Ralph said the audit findings are reason enough for the mayor to want the help of a Chief of Staff.

Ralph said no budget adjustment was made for the $22,000 McCain allegedly spent and that the $22,000 combined with the $30,000 will send this year’s budget over by about $50,000.

The city originally budgeted around $56,000, he said.

Mayor Slaughter recently attended the Presidential inauguration on taxpayer dollars. When asked if a budget amendment was made for that also, Ralph said no because that was only about $2,000 and, he said, well within what the mayor is allowed to spend.

“I’m not trying to be a drain on the budget,” Ralph said of his work pro-bono.

Hearing

After a three-hour-long hearing last Wednesday, Judge Alvin Batiste of the 18th Judicial District Court granted a preliminary injunction preventing Slaughter from interfering with McCain in her duties as CFO and municipal clerk.

Batiste said the injunction will also include language allowing McCain all things necessary to her job, which were afforded to her prior to termination, such as access to a computer, access to the computer network and access to City Hall and her office.

The mayor terminated McCain Monday, Feb. 11 without council approval. Slaughter maintained that CFO was an administrative position, not a department head, thereby giving her the authority to fire McCain.

According to Port Allen city ordinances, the mayor may hire or fire whomever he or she pleases, except the municipal clerk or a department head, which are subject to council approval.

One of McCain’s attorneys, Cy J. D’Aquila Jr., asserted that not only was McCain a department head, but she was the tax collector for the city of Port Allen – “subject to confirmation by the board of aldermen,” or city council, according to La. revised statute 33:386.

D’Aquila cited La. revised statute 33:381, which states, “The officers of every municipality shall be a mayor, aldermen, a chief of police, a tax collector, and a clerk.”

City attorney Victor Woods asked McCain if she was ever appointed “tax collector.” McCain said no.

She added that her duties, even if not exhaustively listed in the CFO job description, included collecting property taxes for the city.

McCain noted that the West Baton Rouge Parish revenue department collects sales taxes.

Witness and Councilman R.J. Loupe said of the tax collector’s duties, “We always had put it in the hands of the Chief Financial Officer.”

Batiste ruled that McCain was acting as both clerk and tax collector, as evidenced by her receiving one paycheck for both her positions as clerk and CFO. Batiste cited La. revised statute 33:381, “The clerk or chief of police may be a tax collector or assessor, if the board of aldermen so decides.”

He also ruled that CFO is a department head, saying McCain had duties not requiring direct supervision.

McCain said she oversees about five people and that her job is “pretty well self-directed,” though she agreed during cross-examination that the mayor is her immediate supervisor.

In his closing argument, D’Aquila said all positions are “under the administrative direction of the mayor” and that any job description may contain that clause.

He cited La. revisted statute 33:404, which states the duties of the mayor: “To supervise and direct the administration and operation of all municipal departments, offices, and agencies, other than a police department with an elected chief of police.”

A full evidentiary hearing will be set for a later date, at which time a permanent injunction may be granted.

Slaughter was not present at last Wednesday’s hearing.

 

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