As of Wednesday Aug. 28, the Port Allen utility office will have experienced a 100-percent turnover rate and the administrative staff will have suffered six total resignations since Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter took office nearly eight months ago.
On April 26, Kaci Daigle was the first of the city’s three utility clerks to resign. Kathy Pierson followed suit on July 26 and Terecita Pattan on Aug. 14, though Pattan agreed to stay on for two weeks until Aug. 28 in order to train the city’s two new utility clerks, CAO Adrian Genre said.
Meanwhile, Administrative Coordinator Melita Rasberry and Payroll Clerk Robin Ackerman both walked out on the same day, Aug. 23.
Rasberry had worked for the city since 2005. Ackerman since 1995.
The city has also been without a city attorney since Victor Woods’ resignation effective June 30.
Genre said there may have been retirements or assistant CFO and CAO positions eliminated by the city council, but that there were no resignations last year.
Ackerman said in a statement expressing heartbreak over her decision to resign and requesting prayers for the city: “I have worked for the City of Port Allen 18 and a half years and worked under four different mayors prior to this one. Until now, I never had a problem working for anyone of them.”
Genre said the last time he remembers a resignation was a utility clerk about three years ago, adding that the administrative staff typically has an “extremely low turnover” rate.
When asked about the most recent resignations (Rasberry and Ackerman), Slaughter said, “I am limited in my response because this is a personnel matter.” She added, “We thank them for their service to the City of Port Allen.”
Slaughter said of the utility clerk resignations at the Aug. 7 city council meeting that there was tension in the utility office from the day she stepped foot into office.
“There was friction on that floor between those three ladies,” she said. “I met with them. We had meetings, we had group sessions, let’s work together… that did not happen.”
As per what she will do following the resignations, Slaughter said she has asked “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.”
Genre said, due to Ackerman’s absence, “There is severe apprehension about paychecks this week.”
CFO Audrey McCain said she will attempt to take on Ackerman’s payroll duties for the Friday, Aug. 30 paychecks. She said she has cross-trained for payroll before but that she hasn’t done payroll in a long time.
McCain said the city typically segregates duties pertaining to money handling as a form of internal control. She said if she was in Slaughter’s position – suddenly without a payroll clerk – she would probably hire a company.
Slaughter said before replacing any of the now-vacant positions, she will review “all of the jobs in the administrative office to see if we can combine some of the duties and responsibilities.”
On whether the remaining administrative staff can handle Rasberry’s and Ackerman’s duties in addition to their own, temporarily without replacements, McCain said, “We’re about to find out.”
New office clerks
According to West Side Journal records, Slaughter advertised for an “Office Clerk” position on April 18, April 25 and May 2. That position was not listed as either part-time or full-time.
The deadline for accepting applications was Friday, May 3 and Slaughter hired Deborah Davis on June 24, announcing the new hire at the July 10 regular city council meeting.
The mayor said she was making the position part-time at a rate of about $14 an hour. She said there were 39 applicants for the position and she interviewed ten.
At the Aug. 7 city council committee meeting, Slaughter announced that she hired two additional office clerks, one part-time and one full-time.
Port Allen City Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere asked of Davis’s hiring, “A personal assistant to the mayor was hired?”
Slaughter said, “The office clerk was hired. Duties were given to that office clerk.”
At the Aug. 14 regular city council meeting and at the urging of a resident, Slaughter announced the names of the two new office clerks: Elika Everson and Deborah White.
Records show Everson and White were hired on the same date, July 29. Everson is salaried at pay grade 109C, or about $30,000, but Slaughter did not provide that information at the meeting. White is part-time at about $14 an hour, the same as Davis.
On August 19, Slaughter hired Leslie Lawson as an additional office clerk.
The mayor says she will announce that hire at the next regular Port Allen city council meeting (on Sept. 11) but that in the meantime she has contacted all city council members via telephone or letter.
Port Allen city ordinances require that prior to hiring any employee, the mayor inform the city council of “the name of the employee to be hired and the rate of compensation,” “the amount of money then available in the budget of the department in which the proposed employee is to be hired,” and that the person “meets all of the qualifications for the position to be filled as set out in the applicable job description for employees presently in effect for the city.”
Slaughter said Tuesday, “The council members all received notification by me in regards of hiring the new employees. It is my practice that I reach out to them on all issues.”
Riviere said of the new hires prior to Lawson at the Aug. 7 meeting, “We were left out.”
The April and May ad in the paper for office clerk says, “The city of Port Allen is an equal opportunity employer,” but McCain said she fears insufficient advertising for positions would open the city up to US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints.
On Aug. 7, Slaughter said of the ad, “That position was opened again in order for the city to run and not be at a point where there was no one here to take utilities, to serve our customers.”