What’s ordinarily a routine piece of business before the Ascension Parish Council’s finance committee presented a tricky moment for purchasing director Joan Shivers on Monday.
At the tail end of each meeting, Shivers reads off the names of each “lowest responsive bidder” for bids on everything from limestone to multimillion-dollar road projects before the committee votes.
But anyone with a council packet at Monday’s meeting could see an awkward moment coming in the low bid to sell the parish six Powerfoil X2.0 fans at a cost of $62,790.
When the moment arrived for Shivers to read the name of that company — Big Ass Solutions — Councilman Dempsey Lambert broke in.
“I move, Mrs. Chairman,” Lambert told Committee Chairwoman Teri Casso, signaling to go ahead with a vote for the bid without further discussion.
“I’m not going to make you read that one,” Casso told Shivers, amid laughs.
“I was wondering how I was going to handle it,” Shivers said to more laughter.
Casso said moments later that if anyone wanted to know what the parish was buying to see her after the meeting.
“Some big old fans,” Councilman Randy Cloautre quipped.
“Yes, some, big, old fans,” Casso responded.
Port Allen council: ‘No’ in Slaughter case fees
The Port Allen City Council this week may have set itself up for another potentially costly lawsuit.
On Wednesday, a majority of the City Council voted against paying more than $50,000 in outstanding legal fees to Baton Rouge law firm Phelps Dunbar related to a wrongful termination lawsuit the city’s chief financial officer filed against former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter in 2013.
Three members of the five-member council contend that Slaughter illegally obtained outside legal counsel to represent the city’s interest in the case. They say state law prohibits mayors from hiring outside lawyers without the council’s approval.
In the past two months, the council has approved more than $120,000 in legal fees and settlements related to lawsuits Slaughter was fighting before she was recalled from office in November 2013.
That’s on top of about $330,000 the city paid in 2013 to two former employees who filed civil suits over alleged sexual harassment and race discrimination under the administration of former Mayor Derek Lewis.
When asked after Wednesday’s meeting about the possibility Phelps Dunbar could sue the city for the $51,941 it says its owed for representing Slaughter in the wrongful termination lawsuit, Councilmen Hugh “Hootie” Riviere shrugged.
“There’s always a chance that could happen, but I feel we have solid legal footing to stand on,” he said.
Attorney: Amite council erred in raising its pay
Two attorneys for the town of Amite confirmed this week what the mayor already suspected: The council’s recent vote to raise its own pay was illegal.
The council advertised and held a public hearing on a proposed ordinance that would have changed the method of its payment from meeting-based to monthly.
But in the meandering discussion that followed the June 2 public hearing, the council members ended up voting to keep the timing of their pay the same and instead change the amount.
Mayor Buddy Bel said that’s where they went astray. And the town’s attorneys agreed.
“The attorneys will issue a memo to the City Council that it was an improper ordinance that wasn’t advertised as to the content of the pay raises,” Bel said after meeting with the lawyers Monday afternoon.
It will be up to the council to decide whether to redraft, readvertise and revote on an ordinance to increase its pay, Bel said.
That discussion is slated for the council’s June 22 meeting, which starts at 9 a.m.
Advocate staff writers David J. Mitchell, Terry L. Jones and Heidi Kinchen contributed to this article.