Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter is now, officially, the ‘former mayor’ of Port Allen.
Slaughter was elected in Dec. 2012 by 1,444 votes for a four-year term beginning Jan. 2013. On Nov. 16, 1,453 votes effectively recalled her as mayor. Slaughter thus became the first elected official to be recalled in West Baton Rouge Parish’s history, according to a state list of recall elections since 1966.
Slaughter did not contest the election results; therefore, she was out of a job as of 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 25.
Council member Hugh Riviere said if Slaughter had contested, “That would have prolonged an already bad situation.”
Prior to leaving office, Slaughter was making nearly $85,000 a year, the same salary as former mayors Derek Lewis and Roger Bergeron.
However, because that figure was higher than the council budgeted for the 2012-2013 fiscal year and because the city is currently without a 2013-2014 budget and operating on 50 percent of the 2012-2013 budget, CFO Audrey McCain predicted that budgeted funds for Slaughter’s salary would run out by early December.
The council now has 20 days from the day Slaughter vacated office to appoint an interim mayor or the Governor will appoint one for them. Twenty days from Nov. 25 at 4:30 p.m. is Sunday, Dec. 15.
When asked if the 2013-2014 budget or the appointment will come first, council member Hugh Riviere said, “The appointment’s going to have to come first.”
Riviere explained that though Mayor Pro-Tempore Ray Helen Lawrence is temporarily acting as mayor, she doesn’t have the authority to introduce a budget.
Riviere said that Slaughter could have granted that authority to Lawrence in writing before 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 25, but Slaughter didn’t do that.
Riviere said what will likely happen is a council meeting with a two-item agenda, where the council appoints and swears in an interim mayor and then the interim mayor introduces a budget.
Riviere said that he did not foresee a special meeting during the week of Thanksgiving because he said all five city council members have not yet come to an agreement on the appointment.
Riviere said he would like the council to present a “united front;” therefore, he doesn’t want to call a special meeting unless all five city council members have come to some agreement on the appointment.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is a committee meeting on Dec. 4 at 5:30 p.m., but only discussion, not council action, can take place at that meeting. Council action, however, can take place at the Dec. 11 city council meeting or at any special council meeting the council or Mayor Pro-Tempore chooses to call.
Riviere and council member R.J. Loupe said after the Nov. 20 special meeting that they personally don’t want the interim mayor position because, having campaigned just last year as the incumbents for their council seats, they don’t want to campaign again.
“Nobody wants to lose their seat on the council,” Loupe said.
WBR Parish Registrar of Voters Stacy Ryan said that if any of the council members stepped up as interim mayor, they would lose their council seat and have to run again in the next election. Meanwhile, the council would temporarily appoint someone to fill the vacant council seat.
Riviere has served as city council member for District 2 for eight consecutive years since Jan. 1, 2005, according to the La. Secretary of State Elected Officials Database.
Loupe has served as city Council Member-at-Large for a collective 16 years, since Jan. 1, 1989, also according to the database. Lawrence has served as city council member for District 1 for 12 consecutive years since Jan. 1, 2001 and Mayor Pro-Tempore since early this year.
Lawrence said she would not want to be appointed mayor for such a short length of time. She also said she would not want to run for mayor because of the short period of time that has elapsed since she was re-elected to her council position. “It hasn’t been a year yet since we got in the position we are in as council people,” she said.
The next election for mayor will take place on April 5, 2014, Ryan said, but the interim mayor cannot run in that election. Slaughter can run in that election but declined to comment on whether she would during an interview last week.
Riviere said, absent a 2013-2014 budget, payroll is fine for the time being.
McCain said the Louisiana Legislative Auditor is allowing her to pay fire department salaries in accordance with the separate fire department budget that was approved by a unanimous vote of the city council on Oct. 23. McCain had previously expressed concern over how she would pay fire department salaries after the Nov. 22 paycheck.
She said council members’ salaries should be okay through December and police department salaries and other city employees’ salaries should be okay through early January.
McCain had also said on Tuesday, Nov. 12, that some of the city’s vendor invoices had to be pulled because the corresponding accounts had no money to cover those invoices.
Riviere said, “The vendors are being very cooperative with us.” He said the vendors realize Port Allen has money in the bank, even if the city can’t access that money (by law) right now.
“We’re going to keep moving on,” Riviere said.
Slaughter’s last attempt at introducing a budget failed on Nov. 20 for lack of a second. Lawrence moved to introduce the budget, but neither Riviere, Loupe nor Hubble seconded it. Council member Brandon Brown arrived late to the meeting after the council had already moved to the next item on the agenda.
Council member Garry Hubble said, “I’m willing to sit down and talk with anybody as long as it’s going to be a constructive dialogue. If it’s just pointing fingers I’m not interested in that.”
Those who see the divide in Port Allen as racially motivated have often criticized how the council typically votes down racial lines.
Resident Edward Frank commented on a public Facebook post following the Nov. 16 recall election, “Watch the way the votes go on the council. It's not a historic day it's a sad day in Port Allen.”
Resident Nikisha Brown said, “No, race shouldn't be an issue but it was…unless you view life with blinders on.”
New Orleans-based civil rights leader Rev. Raymond Brown, who spoke outside Port Allen City Hall on Nov. 13 prior to the recall election, called the two black women who chaired the recall petition, Deloris Kibby and Millie Jackson, “Uncle Toms, and sell-outs and backstabbers.”
Kibby said, “He said Millie and I were sell outs – well, we brought the town back. Port Allen now belongs back to the citizens.”
She added that Brown’s comment does not bother her because Brown is not a resident of Port Allen.
“If he served the right God, he wouldn’t even be making those kinds of comments,” she added.
Jackson said, “The good book that Millie reads, it don’t discriminate nobody.”
She said race was not an issue in Port Allen until Slaughter and her supporters made it one. “It’s not everybody that made this town racist,” she said. “It’s that little Slaughter group and her supporters…She started it.”
Resident Brian Allen said on a public Facebook post following the recall election, “To allow some radical Minister to get out in front of City Hall and label black folks as ‘Uncle Toms’ is a disgrace. Just because you are African American and whether you support the Mayor or not doesn’t make you that…It’s called Freedom of choice.”
Hubble, Riviere and Loupe, who are white (Brown and Lawrence are black), said they signed the recall petition after two city employees with a combined more-than-25 years of experience abruptly quit in August. The city has suffered six total resignations since Jan. 1.
Lawrence said, “I really don’t know what’s going to become of all of this commotion.
I really don’t. I just hope and pray for the best. That’s all I can do.”
Hubble said, for now, he’s glad the 11 months of Slaughter’s tenure as mayor is over.
“I have a passion for this city. And I believe in it. And I want to build it,” he said. “But for 11 months, I’ve been playing childish games with somebody. And I’m glad it’s over.”