Mayor breaking Louisiana council split votes becoming commonplace
When three new Louisiana City Council members were elected on a promised reform and change ticket in April, a pattern emerged.
That was the possibility of tie votes occurring, with Mayor Tom Wallace breaking them.
Two months later, that is now occurring at almost every council meeting.
The latest example came at the Monday, June 10 meeting, when new board members Sal Pollice, Kathy Smith, Bart Niedner and veteran councilman Chuck Hoffman voted against the mayor’s appointments to city committees.
The other voting block of established council members Monroe Elliott, Jim Wood, Larry White and Russell Stephens voted to accept the appointments. That left the decision up to Wallace, who said “I go with the yeas.”
The scenario was repeated when Niedner made a motion to postpone the annual appointment of city officials. This time, Wallace voted no to break the tie.
The council then voted to take each city official appointment on a one-by-one basis. That almost created the split vote scenario again when it came to the reappointment of City Attorney Robert Rapp.
Elliott, Wood, White and Stephens voted to retain Rapp, with Pollice, Smith and Niedner voting against keeping him on the city payroll.
Hoffman abstained from the vote, which created a 4-3 win for Rapp’s rehiring and removed the necessity of Wallace breaking yet another tie.
City Administrator Bob Jenne was rehired for one year, with Niedner voting no, Hoffman abstaining and all others voting for him. The vote to rehire Police Chief Rich Hughes was 7-1, with Smith voting no because “I don’t believe in two-year terms.”
All the other votes for city officials unanimously rehired them for one year. That included votes for City Clerk Sharon Kakouris, City Treasurer Renae Johnson, Fire Chief Mike Lesley, Municipal Judge Bruce McGuire, City Prosecutor Joe Brannon, City Collector Christina Boyd and code enforcement officers Kent Adams and Wiley Harrison.
Wallace also took time to answer a letter to him from Niedner, Smith, Hoffman and Pollice. The letter asked him to exclude Board of Adjustment Chairman Porter Elliott Dream Initiative matters. The Dream Initiative is a tool for city redevelopment.
Elliott has corresponded with a firm involved with the city’s Dream Initiative in the past. The letter from the four council members asked Wallace to remove Elliott from any Dream Initiative capacity because he allegedly misrepresented council sentiments about it.
“This is back-door tactics as far as I’m concerned,” Wallace said, because the letter to him only involved the four council members and excluded the other four.
Wallace also said he suspected the letter to him may have involved a surreptitious meeting of the four in violation of the state’s open government meetings law, commonly referred to as the Sunshine Law.
Pollice denied any such meeting took place and said he signed the letter when he was at his personal business office in Lincoln, Ill.
In other news:
• Rapp was asked to come up with a strategy on how to deal with three problem properties Adams said are currently utilized by Ben Burse Jr. Residents have complained about excessive junk on the properties allegedly creating health hazards and decreasing property values.
• The council voted to post approved committee and board meeting minutes on the city’s website. Another vote allowed residents to contact council members through personal email addresses or through the city’s email address.
• The board voted unanimously to remove a standard agenda item that allowed it to go into closed-door executive sessions without stating the exact reason.
• The council voted unanimously to accept a bid from Bowling Green Chevrolet for a new utility truck for $31,500. Jenne said there were three bids all within $2,000 of each other but he wanted the council to accept the Bowling Green bid because of the closeness of the dealership for warranty coverage repairs.