GONZALES — The three Gonzales city councilmen who cut funding for the Police Department from the city’s capital outlay budget — a budget subsequently vetoed by Mayor Barney Arceneaux — have called a special meeting for Wednesday to discuss amending a different budget, the city’s general fund budget.
The special meeting was called by Councilmen Gary Lacombe, Terance Irvin and Timothy Vessel, to appropriate money to buy police cars.
A city official said the topic of the meeting is an unusual one.
“It’s not customary to buy police cars out of the general fund,” City Clerk Clay Stafford said late Tuesday afternoon, after the three councilmen put in the request for a special meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Police cars are usually purchased out of a city’s capital outlay budget, Stafford said.
The three councilmen have voted three times since April to cut capital outlay funding to the Police Department by approximately $100,000, leaving about $327,000 in funding for equipment and other purchases, including the nine new police cars sought by Chief Sherman Jackson.
Messages were left with Lacombe and Vessel for comment. Irvin could not be reached for comment.
Also on Tuesday, enough signatures on a petition were verified to place a recall proposal for one of the three councilmen, Lacombe, on the Dec. 6 ballot.
Ascension Parish Registrar of Voters Robert Poché said 2,281 signatures have been verified on the recall petition. The petition drive needed at least 2,145 verified signatures, one-third of the voters in Gonzales, to put a proposal on the ballot.
Volunteers who worked to get it there will be encouraging residents to get out to vote in December, said Chuck LeBlanc, chairman of the recall effort.
“We’re happy it turned out this way, we felt confident it would,” LeBlanc said.
Poché said he will hand-deliver the recall petition to the Governor’s Office this week. The governor issues an election proclamation for a recall within 15 days after receiving the certified petition.
Poché’s office is in the process of verifying the signatures on another recall petition, this one for Vessel, who also was the target of SaveGonzales, the group of residents who launched the signature drives in April.
Before the December general election, LeBlanc said SaveGonzales “will get out there and encourage people to vote.”
“We’ll go door to door, hand out fliers, just get people to talk,” LeBlanc said.
“The people of Gonzales are the people that need to be congratulated on this,” he said. “They signed it. All we did was take it to them. They spoke up. They wanted change.”
“We’re determined to get this done,” LeBlanc said.
The effort to recall Lacombe and Vessel was launched, in large part, because the councilmen’s repeated voting against zoning changes in Gonzales. The two councilmen and Councilman Terance Irvin regularly vote in a three-man bloc on the five-member council.
If voters approve a recall, the public official has nine days after the election to contest it. A vacated office is filled until a special election is called to fill the seat.
In August, a new law took effect in Louisiana, Act No. 690, that prohibits a public official recalled from office from qualifying for the same office in the special election called to fill the position.