On Tuesday morning, Sept. 3, West Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters Stacy Ryan received a 256-page petition containing over 1,400 signatures for the purpose of recalling Port Allen Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter.
If successful, the recall election would be the first in West Baton Rouge Parish’s history, according to a state list of recall elections since 1966.
Chairperson and Co-Chairperson of the petition, Deloris Kibby and Millie Jackson, delivered the petition at 8:07 a.m., accompanied by about 10 other members of the community, including retired city CFO Claire Sarradet.
At 8:08 a.m., Ryan began verifying the number of pages in the petition. By 8:20 a.m. Ryan verified a total of 256 pages.
Recall supporters in the registrar’s office applauded as Ryan announced her receipt of the petition.
The petition contains the names of city council members Hugh “Hootie” Riviere and Garry Hubble, according to Riviere. Riviere said what motivated him to sign the petition was “the atmosphere created by the mayor” in city hall, adding that he wants to do everything he can “to make the situation better for the employees.”
At a city council meeting earlier this year, Riviere publicly distanced himself from the recall effort. Recall organizer John Michael Lockhart said he and other organizers never asked city council members to sign the petition, and that, “They weren’t planning on signing it.”
Since Slaughter took office in January, city CFO Audrey McCain sued her for wrongful termination and council members Riviere, Hubble, and R.J. Loupe sued her for misuse of city funds. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor also conducted an investigation into Slaughter’s fledgling administration, publishing the findings on June 19.
By Aug. 14, three city employees quit and City Attorney Victor Woods resigned.
Then on Aug. 23, two more employees with a combined 25 years of experience quit. The sudden and additional resignations spurred a final surge of recall petition signatures, including Riviere’s and Hubble’s, Lockhart said.
Now, the registrar of voters has 15 days in order to certify the petition, which needs 1,273 signatures of registered voters living within the city limits of Port Allen. A modest estimate of the signatures obtained, Lockhart said, is 1,400.
Once Ryan certifies the signatures, she said she will hand-deliver the petition to the governor.
If the petition meets the required number of certified signatures, the governor then has 15 days to issue an “election proclamation,” according to the Louisiana Secretary of State website.
Ryan said the recall election would then go on the Nov. 16 ballot, or any sooner date the governor chooses to call a recall election. According to Ryan, that ballot would be a ‘yes or no’ ballot to recall the mayor. If a majority vote yes, the mayor is recalled and there temporarily exists a vacancy in the mayor’s seat, Secretary of State Press Secretary Meg Casper said.
According to Port Allen city ordinances and prior practice, Mayor Pro-Tem Ray Helen Lawrence would act as mayor until the next election. In that election, Slaughter could run again, Casper said.
In June, after recall organizers formally filed their petition with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office, the mayor sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder claiming that, “these white council members are running the recall effort out of the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s office.” The Louisiana Secretary of State was copied on that letter. The Secretary of State also received two complaint letters on July 15 that elderly citizens at a health clinic were being coerced into signing the petition.
Casper said the July complaint was forwarded to the proper local authority, Parish Finance Director Philip Bourgoyne.
Bourgoyne said, “We couldn’t find anything that would make us want any further action on it.”
Casper confirmed that no complaints pertaining to the recall election are currently under investigation by the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office.
In a Sept. 3 press release, Kibby and Jackson said, “the process of collecting signatures of legally registered voters was conducted in strict compliance with applicable election law, and with the highest degree of scrutiny.”
Casper said if residents are concerned that they signed the petition without knowing what it was, they have five days to ask the parish registrar to remove their name from the petition. Residents also have five days in order to add their name to the petition.
Kibby and Jackson said they pray for no interference while Ryan certifies the petition.
“We pray that Ms. Ryan’s office will be allowed to conduct a fair and comprehensive certification of this petition without any interference or any attempt to subvert or delay the legal process,” they said.
Kibby and Jackson said, without interference, they are confident of the petition’s success.
Lockhart said recall organizers and supporters had a “celebration supper” the night before Kibby and Jackson delivered the petition. “Obviously there was a lot of happiness in the room,” he said.
Meanwhile, Slaughter maintains that three city council members led the recall committee and that the petition delivered Tuesday was an attempt “to disrespect the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and to disenfranchise most of voters who supported me for mayor.”
She said, “In spite of their efforts, I remain committed to moving the City of Port Allen forward.”
Slaughter is the city’s first black woman mayor. Kibby is the second black woman hired by the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.