GONZALES — While it looked recently as if the issue of nine new police cars for the Gonzales Police Department might be resolved, it all came apart at Monday’s City Council meeting when three councilmen reversed course on city budgets.
Along the way, Councilman Timothy Vessel accused the mayor of holding up progress by several vetoes of budgets this year, saying at one point that Mayor Barney Arceneaux made the vetoes to “feed the recall.”
Vessel and fellow Councilman Gary Lacombe face a recall election on Dec. 9.
On the council agenda Monday night was a final vote on the general fund budget, which had been amended twice in recent weeks.
Instead of a final vote, however, councilmen Vessel, Lacombe and Terance Irvin voted against the budget, effectively undoing some of their previous actions.
At a special city council meeting on Sept. 24, Lacombe had moved to transfer $272,000 from the Police Department’s capital outlay budget to the general fund budget to fund nine new police units.
The police units have been the center of controversy on the council, prompting three vetoes by Arceneaux since April after the three councilmen repeatedly voted to cut funding for the Police Department.
On Oct. 13, Councilman Kenny Matassa made his own motion to move an additional $114,000 to the general fund for motorcycles and surveillance cameras that Police Chief Sherman Jackson has sought.
In a surprising move at that meeting, Irvin voted for Matassa’s amendment, against Lacombe and Vessel.
Typically Irvin, Lacombe and Vessel vote in a bloc.
At Monday’s meeting, however, Irvin, Lacombe and Vessel rejected the amended budget.
Matassa and Councilman Kirk Boudreaux voted for it.
There was no discussion by council members before the vote.
The council also was set to take a final vote Monday on the city’s capital outlay budget, which had been revised to take into account the moving of funds to the general fund budget.
With those actions rejected by the three councilmen, Irvin amended the Police Department’s capital outlay budget back to the $327,000 that he, Lacombe and Irvin have sought since April.
Irvin said the police chief could have purchased the cars with the reduced budget.
“Did you not veto it, Mr. Mayor?” Vessel asked Arceneaux of his previous vetoes of the capital outlay budget. Arceneaux had been seeking at least another $100,000 for that budget.
“The mayor vetoed it, the mayor’s the one who did not get you the cars,” Vessel told the police chief.
Arceneaux shot back: “You know good and well, Terance, why I did the veto.”
After the meeting, Irvin said of his change of heart regarding funding motorcycles and cameras out of the general fund that “after thinking about it, for the last five months we have been discussing it. The budget (of $327,000 that the three councilmen back) is 10 percent over last year’s” for the Police Department.
“It’s enough to purchase the nine cars they wanted,” he said.
Arceneaux said after the meeting that he thinks Irvin had been confused in the Oct. 13 meeting when he voted, along with Boudreaux and Matassa, for additional funds for motorcycles and surveillance cameras for the Police Department.
“Mr. Irvin was totally confused two weeks ago,” Arceneaux said. “How can you vote one way, then come back two weeks later and vote totally opposite?”
At its next meeting, on Nov. 10, the council is theoretically set to make its final vote on both the general fund budget and the capital outlay budget.