John Givens

BAKER A Baker citizen brandishing a marshmallow pie called for the resignation of City Council President John Givens at the council’s meeting Tuesday.

John Abel told the council that Givens, who was not present for the meeting, had “abused the privilege of his office” in an incident that allegedly took place last Tuesday at Ragusa’s Meat Market on Groom Road in Baker.

Givens has been accused of eating a Little Debbie banana-flavored marshmallow pie in the store then placing the wrapper in his pocket without paying for the item. When store manager Abdallah Mizeyd confronted him, Givens showed him an ID badge that identified him as a council member. Givens was arrested and faces a possible felony charge of abuse of office and theft.

Interviewed before the council meeting, Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps said Givens no longer has the ID badge but declined to offer any more details.

“We don’t have the authority or power to do anything. The judicial system has to make the decision whether (Givens) is guilty or not,” Councilman Pete Heine said in response to Abel.

After the matter makes its way through the courts, the council could consider some action, such as calling for Givens’ resignation, Heine said.

In other business, Knaps urged the council to revisit the possibility of raising utility rates in the city. The city budget approved by the council in July included deep cuts to public safety.

With school starting and traffic increasing in the city, the police force is stretched thin, Knaps said.

“We have to do something to generate funds. This is not going to work,” he said, referring to the cuts in funding for the police force.

Knaps added he has spoken to hundreds of citizens and has found no one who objects to paying more for utilities to help fund public safety.

The proposal, which the council voted down in June, would have increased sewer and water rates for city residents about $10 per month total and could have raised as much as $600,000 per year for the city.

During a discussion later in the meeting regarding gas line improvements, Mayor Harold Rideau noted that the city will not be able to continue to keep up the sewer and water systems at the current utility rates.