Port Allen City Councilman and Chair of the Personnel and Finance Committee Garry Hubble is currently leading an effort to clarify the city’s department heads via a retroactive ordinance – an effort Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter said she opposes.
“There were never department heads,” Slaughter said at the March 6 committee meeting.
Department heads have been an issue of contestation in the city of Port Allen since Slaughter fired CFO Audrey McCain without council approval Feb. 11. Slaughter, in a letter to council members that day, called CFO “an administrative staff position to the mayor,” but many residents, including former mayor Roger Bergeron, thought CFO, historically, was considered a department head, along with Chief Administrative Officer, Fire Chief, Chief of Police and Director of Public Works.
On Feb. 20, a state judge ruled that the CFO is a department head; therefore, the firing of a CFO would be subject to council approval.
Former Port Allen CFO Claire Sarradet said at the March 6 committee meeting, the judge “ruled on a matter of practice and precedence.”
Council member Hugh “Hootie” Riviere said it was merely an “oversight” on his part and “historically the last 50 years or 100 years” not to clarify the department heads in the city’s code of ordinances.
“It’s really not an oversight,” Sarradet said. “There are probably a vast majority of incorporated municipalities in the state of Louisiana who have never had their department heads formally identified, or departments for that matter, formally identified by ordinance.”
City Attorney Victor Woods disagreed, saying, “There are numerous cities that have ordinances that create department heads.”
Slaughter maintained she did nothing wrong in firing McCain because the department heads had not been established via ordinance.
“I had council members saying, well everything always did go through the council,” she said, “But the Lawrason Act says certain things do not have to go through the council. So this is where the struggle is coming.”
Port Allen currently operates under a Lawrason Act form of government, as stated on the city’s website under “Departments.” The Lawrason Act consists of several La. revised statutes, such as R.S. 33:386 which states that, “the mayor, subject to confirmation by the board of aldermen, shall appoint a clerk, tax collector…and all other necessary officers whose election is not provided for in R.S. 33:381.”
At one point during the meeting, Port Allen resident Wendell Hightower mentioned “racism.”
Slaughter later commented, saying, “Racism, I’m not for it…What it seems like… I’m a female, I’m black, so it looks like everything that I’m doing is not correct, it’s not right.”
Hightower said, “Let’s get past this stuff and go on and run the city of Port Allen.”
Also during the meeting Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence asked that a section on workplace violence be included in the employee handbook.
She said she was “just trying to ask a question” at the last regular council meeting when Councilman R.J. Loupe “attacked” her.
At that meeting, police officers moved to restrain Loupe, who stood up and pointed at Lawrence, saying, “I’m not finished, I’m not finished, Mrs. Lawrence.”
Lawrence said Loupe apologized to her after that meeting, but that she wanted a public apology since the indiscretion occurred during a public forum.
Loupe said, “I didn’t apologize for you interrupting me, I apologized for my bad stinking behavior. And it was stupid on my part. I’m sorry I did that. It will never happen again.”