An odd thing happened the other night at, wouldn’t you know it, a Gonzales City Council meeting.
Councilman Gary Lacombe and the two councilmen who vote with him, Terance Irvin and Timothy Vessel, called a special meeting last week.
It was pretty special.
Two weeks ago, Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux vetoed for the third time the capital outlay budget as amended by the three councilmen to cut roughly 25 percent of funding for the Police Department.
The cut puts into question the purchase of nine new units that Police Chief Sherman Jackson is seeking for his department to replace cars with lots of mileage and the potential for lots of repair bills.
But it doesn’t seem like it was the issue of the police units that really spurred Lacombe to call the special meeting last week.
In all actuality, it was something else altogether.
The audience at the Gonzales City Council meetings has come to learn that Lacombe likes to hand documents to the mayor’s secretary at meetings, to be put on the overhead projector.
At the special meeting last week, he did it again and the audience found itself looking at a printout of a news story that ran recently on a Baton Rouge TV station, in which Jackson said some of his police units were in bad shape.
That’s about it.
After scolding Jackson for scaring the public and saying, in effect, that reports of the poor condition of some of the police units were news to him, Lacombe made a rather startling motion to fund Lacombe’s nine police units, for approximately $262,000, after all.
But this time, he said in his motion, it would come out of a different budget, the general fund budget.
City Clerk Clay Stafford has said that’s highly unusual — such equipment purchases typically come out of capital outlay funds.
Here’s an idea.
When Arceneaux reintroduces the capital outlay budget for the fourth time, at the next meeting on Oct. 13, intact with the original line items in place for the Police Department, Lacombe could let it stand, if he’s decided the city should buy the cars after all.
Lacombe last week also insisted that the police chief could already have gone out and spent the money for the new cars out of the capital outlay budget.
But the budget’s been crippled since June, when the new fiscal year began. By state law, the city can only spend up to 50 percent of last year’s capital outlay budget, until a new budget is approved, so the city has been putting off projects, shepherding its funds for as long as it can into the new fiscal year.
At the meeting last week, former Police Chief Bill Landry addressed the council, after Lacombe’s comments.
“Shame on you three councilmen. Do the right thing for the right reason,” he said.
He raised the possibility that, because of Lacombe’s new motion, the mayor may once again veto the general fund budget.
After two earlier vetoes, the mayor finally let the general fund budget stand in September so employees could get a 2 percent raise.
Maybe another veto of the general fund budget is what Lacombe was pushing for, more chaos for the city council, with funding for future city operations once again in limbo.
And we are left to wonder why.
Ellyn Couvillion covers the Gonzales City Council for the Advocate. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.