The Amite Town Council’s recent vote to raise its own pay may not have been legal, the town’s mayor said Friday.
Mayor Buddy Bel said he will meet with the town’s two attorneys Monday to listen to the audio recording of Tuesday’s council meeting and determine whether the measure that passed on a contentious 3-2 vote is legally enforceable.
The controversy stems from a meandering discussion in which the council strayed from adopting an advertised, proposed ordinance that would have changed the basis for calculating the council’s pay and instead approved an increase in the amount of pay.
By ordinance, the council members receive $400 for each month’s regular meeting, regardless of attendance, and another $200 per month if they attend a special meeting.
Councilman Arthur Leonard Jr. had proposed, during an April 27 meeting, that the council’s pay be shifted from a per-meeting basis to a monthly salary that would not be contingent on attendance.
The meeting minutes indicate Leonard suggested the amount of pay was “to be determined,” but the language of the proposed ordinance advertised for public hearing Tuesday did not mention an amount at all.
Following a public hearing that drew no comments, Leonard made a motion Tuesday to approve the ordinance, which was seconded, Bel said Friday.
During the discussion that followed, Councilman Emanuel Zanders suggested increasing the council members’ pay but keeping the same payment schedule. Zanders suggested increasing the regular meeting pay to $600 and keeping the special meeting pay rate of $200, Bel said.
At that point, Leonard withdrew his motion, Bel said.
Bel said it is unclear whether the vote that followed was for an amended ordinance or a resolution.
A resolution would be beyond the reach of a mayoral veto, but it also could not override an existing ordinance establishing the council’s pay rate.
If it’s an amended ordinance, the question would be whether the public was given proper notice of the possibility that the council would increase its pay.
Neither Leonard, who proposed the advertised ordinance, nor Zanders, who proposed raising the council’s pay, could be reached for comment Friday.
Councilman Jonathon Foster, the third “yes” vote, described the measure as “just a simple vote.” Foster said he had no problems with how the item was adopted, and he believes the public was given proper notice of the council’s intent.
“If something’s wrong with it, then (the Louisiana Board of) Ethics or whoever should just kick it back and let us know,” Foster said.
Bel said he could not sign checks to the council members based on a resolution, but he would help the council draft a new ordinance and readvertise it for public hearing, if they wish.
“A lot of times small-town councils have discussions where they lose sight of Robert’s Rules and how things should legally be done,” he said. “I’m a mayor that wants to make sure things are right and correct.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.