According to a Louisiana Legislative Auditor (LLA) report published June 19, Port Allen Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter may be in violation of the law for a $6,000 car allowance she is currently receiving and the $2,432 of city funds she was reimbursed in January to attend the Presidential inauguration.
However, the LLA finds Slaughter may be less in violation of the law for her $84,960 a year salary, reporting that the council may not have properly lowered the mayor’s salary to $65,000 in June of last year but that Slaughter should have requested a budget amendment anyway.
The report states, “The budget is the legal authority to spend and should be complied with. Whether or not the mayor’s salary was properly set appears to be a matter for the courts. However, to expend more than the amount appropriated by the Council for the mayor’s salary would require, at a minimum, a budget amendment.”
City councilman Garry Hubble said Monday, June 24, that some members of the city council will indeed take the matter to court.
“We have filed a suit…on some of these issues, to address them,” he said.
The LLA, in its report, recommends that the city “seek a declaratory judgment of the Eighteenth Judicial District Court” on the matter of the mayor’s salary and car allowance and that the city “seek legal advice as to the appropriate actions to be taken regarding City funds improperly used to reimburse travel expenses, including recovering such City funds.”
Slaughter, in her published response to the findings, said she disagrees that the city should seek legal advice in recovering those funds, as she believes she was rightfully reimbursed for a trip that served city purpose.
“An official meeting is a meeting between officials,” she said. “There is no requirement… that official business meeting[s] have to take place in the Senator’s office to be official.”
While in Washington, D.C., Slaughter attended a party at U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu’s home where Slaughter said she discussed “the development of Port Allen’s riverfront.”
Slaughter said she will now place the $2,432 she was reimbursed “in an escrow account of the city to allow any council member to file a legal suit to claim the funds.” If those funds are not recovered by “the end of January 2014,” she will withdraw the funds from the account.
Hubble said he has nothing against a mayor attending a Presidential inauguration but, “Do it on your own dime.” He said whatever was budgeted for the 2012-2013 fiscal year should be adhered to, and that receiving $84,960 a year without a budget amendment is “taking something that doesn’t belong to you.”
Councilman R.J. Loupe, during the last city council meeting, said he would have supported Slaughter’s raise 100 percent if she had simply asked for a budget amendment.
As per the mayor’s car allowance, the city council approved $4,800 as a budget amendment for the 2012-2013 fiscal year at the last city council meeting. CFO Audrey McCain said after that meeting, that former mayor Roger Bergeron received $400 a month in car allowance. For a period of 12 months, $400 a month would total to the allotted $4,800.
However, McCain said that Slaughter is receiving $500 a month, which for a period of 12 months would total to $6,000, above the allotted amount and now confirmed by the LLA’s report. Slaughter’s appointed Chief of Staff Ralph Slaughter denied McCain’s statement last week, saying that the mayor receives the same car allowance as Bergeron.
Hubble said he expects the lawsuit against the mayor to be filed by Tuesday, June 25 and named attorney Arthur Smith. Hubble also confirmed a bank account with American Gateway Bank set up by “concerned citizens of Port Allen” in order to provide independent funding for the impending legal action.
“I thank [those citizens] for doing it,” he said. “All we’re trying to do is do the right thing.”
Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence said Monday, June 24, she had no idea of other council members seeking legal advice or action, per the LLA’s recommendations. “They haven’t called me about it,” she said.
Slaughter is already in a court battle with the city’s CFO, whom she attempted to fire in February without city council approval. Slaughter has not denied expending city funds for her attorneys since February, though she has not disclosed a specific dollar amount; meanwhile, McCain continues to pay for her legal expenses out of pocket.
McCain’s attorneys have requested in court documents dated April 4 that the mayor be cast in judgment “for cost incurred [by McCain] for successful prosecution of this matter.”
One resident said at the last city council meeting, “If we’re not paying for Ms. McCain’s attorney, for her to be represented because she was fired illegally, then why should we be paying for the mayor’s [attorneys] when she has refused to follow a court order?”
The city council passed a resolution 3-1-1 at that meeting to deny funding for the mayor’s legal expenses.
Also, Hubble said he does not approve of the mayor’s proposed 2013-2014 budget, which will come before a public hearing Wednesday, June 26.
He called the budget “erroneous” and said it was “not properly introduced as an ordinance.” He added that he is not comfortable passing a budget not prepared by the city’s CFO.
“I’m not signing off to that,” he said. “None of us can do the budget. That’s why you have the CFO.”
Slaughter said in her response to the LLA’s findings, she will “seek to address” the failing of the city council to properly fix the compensation of the mayor and other city officials via ordinance as required by state law by “introducing an ordinance…that properly ‘fixes’ the compensation of the mayor, aldermen, clerk, chief of police and all other municipal officers.”
Slaughter said, “Should the City Council decline to execute its clear legislative mandate in this regard,” she will seek a “writ of mandamus” or a court order compelling the city council to comply with its state-mandated duties.