GONZALES — Mayor Barney Arceneaux for the third time since April is faced with the decision of whether or not to veto city budgets after the City Council again voted 3-2 Monday to pass the budgets with the same amendments that prompted Arceneaux’s two earlier vetoes.
And the political battles between both sides are starting to come at a cost: $10,000 in legal bills so far from two different lawyers hired to represent each side in a lawsuit over a zoning request.
As for the budget, councilmen Gary Lacombe, Terance Irvin and Timothy Vessel have repeatedly supported the same amendments opposed by the mayor and the two other councilmen: to cut funding to the Police Department and the Ascension Economic Development Corp.
Councilmen Kirk Boudreaux and Kenny Matassa again voted against the amended budgets Monday night.
“The city clerk has three days to submit the budget. After that, I have 10 days” to decide whether to veto the budget, Arceneaux said after the meeting.
“We knew what it was going to be,” Boudreaux said after the meeting. “Now it’s left up to the mayor. But we have to move forward with the city.”
“I don’t know what will happen. It’s a shame,” he said.
The amendment to the capital outlay budget would cut the Police Department’s budget from $437,000 to $327,000.
Some of the larger items sought by Police Chief Sherman Jackson were surveillance cameras for the city and nine new police cars. It’s not clear if those purchases could be made with a proposed 25 percent cut to the budget.
“All the tools we can have to catch the bad guys, we need,” Matassa said after the meeting. “We don’t have the volume (of crime) they have in Baton Rouge, but we have the same crimes.”
The other amendment, made to the general fund budget, would cut funding to the Ascension Economic Development Corp. from $75,000 to $50,000.
Irvin said after the meeting that the $50,000 figure is the average salary of a city employee and would cover the salary of one employee in the Ascension Economic Development Corp.
For any special project the AEDC would like to pursue in the city, it could come before the council and request funding, Irvin said.
Lacombe and Vessel could not be reached after the meeting for comment.
Meanwhile, the council on Monday learned that the legal bills are coming in — in widely differing amounts — from the two attorneys each hired to represent a different side on the council in a lawsuit against the city.
In response to a lawsuit filed by 23rd Judicial District Judge Alvin Turner Jr. and his wife over a zoning issue, the council in late August hired New Orleans attorney Robert Barnett to represent councilmen Lacombe, Irvin and Vessel, and local attorney Dwight Poirrier to represent the mayor and Boudreaux and Matassa.
On Monday, the mayor told the council he had received a bill of $9,000 from Barnett for work done to date for the three councilmen, which has involved many phone calls. Arceneaux said the attorney also wants to take 10 depositions in the coming days.
The bill from Poirrier, the attorney for the mayor and the other two councilmen, for work done to date, is $1,000, Arceneaux said.
Both attorneys charge $175 per hour.
The city has a legal fees budget of $30,000 for the year.
The mayor on Monday asked the council for a motion directing the city to pay the fees.
Boudreaux made a motion, seconded by Matassa, to table the matter for further review. Boudreaux’s motion passed, 4-1, with Lacombe voting against it.