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Early voting begins, Slaughter vetoes budget

Written by Emily Bell on . Posted in Local

Since Saturday, Nov. 2, at 8:30 a.m. until about 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5, about 24 percent of voters within the city limits of Port Allen turned out for the early voting for or against the recall of Port Allen Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter.

According to U.S. Census data, Port Allen sustains a population of about 5,100. Of that number, West Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters Stacy Ryan said 4,055 are eligible to vote in the recall election and about 990 voted since early voting began Saturday, Nov. 2 until about 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Of the 990 voters since Saturday, she said 571 are white, 415 are black and four are other.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Nov. 4, Slaughter vetoed the budget ordinance approved by a majority of the city council on Oct. 23 because she said that budget does not contain funding for: an entire new fleet of police vehicles, capital projects, $400,000 in legal expenses recently expended following city council approval, a $60,000 Community Development Coordinator and five percent pay raises for city employees making less than $40,000 a year.

The mayor and council members grappled with the budget for months, since the mayor introduced a budget on June 12 that proposed cutting the CFO and CAO’s salaries by a combined $60,000 and creating the new Community Development position.

Meanwhile, the 2013-2014 fiscal year began on July 1 and the city, according to the Louisiana Local Government Budget Act, was forced to operate on 50 percent of the previous fiscal year’s appropriations.

Slaughter again proposed her budget on Sept. 11, but on Oct. 9 said she would no longer propose cutting the CFO and CAO’s salaries. She still, however, proposed the $60,000 Community Development Coordinator, to serve as a grant writer for the city and to manage the city’s downtown and riverfront development, she said.

Council Member Ray Helen Lawrence suggested that the Community Development Coordinator serve as a dual human resources person, but Council Member Hugh Riviere was not comfortable appropriating $60,000 for a full-time grant writer and suggested hiring a grant writer only as needed and based on commission.

By Oct. 16, the mayor and council members received an amended budget prepared by city CFO Audrey McCain.

Slaughter said in a letter to council members that the amended budget “appears to be a substitute document.” She threatened to veto that budget—unless it incorporated input from Lawrence and Council Member Brandon Brown and unless it included the mayor’s desired funding.

At a special meeting on Oct. 23, the amended budget passed with Riviere and Council Members Garry Hubble and R.J. Loupe voting in favor. Lawrence and Brown voted in opposition.

The mayor did not veto the separate fire department budget that passed unanimously on Oct. 23. However, the combined city budgets she vetoed contain funding for salaries and wages for the fire department

The mayor now suggests that the council revisit the budget at a committee meeting on Nov. 6 and come to some agreement so that they can re-introduce a budget on Nov. 13 and vote on that budget in December.

Early voting for the recall election ends Saturday, Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. Election day is Saturday, Nov. 16.

If a majority (50 percent plus one) vote for the recall of Slaughter, Ryan said there will be a ten-day period to contest the election. If there is no contest or a judge rules no contest, she said Slaughter must vacate the mayor’s seat by 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 25.

At that time, she said Mayor Pro-Tem Ray Helen Lawrence would immediately step in as mayor until the council appoints someone as interim mayor.

The next election to fill the mayor’s seat would be in April 2014 for the primary and in May 2014 if a runoff is needed, Ryan said.

She said the interim mayor cannot run in the April election, but Slaughter can.

If a majority do not vote for the recall of Slaughter, Ryan said another recall cannot be brought against Slaughter for 18 months.

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