The Harahan City Council will vote Thursday on an ordinance to reinforce council members’ right to put items on their meeting agendas, along with a measure to give last year’s extension of health care benefits to council members the force of law.
Councilman Tim Baudier said the first ordinance, which was proposed by Councilwoman Dana Huete, reflects a feeling among a majority of council members that Mayor Tina Miceli has too much control over what goes on the council’s agenda.
He said the Lawrason Act, the governing blueprint used by Louisiana cities without a home rule charter, allows council members to submit proposed legislation through the Mayor’s Office, but some members feel an ordinance explicitly stating that right needs to be on the books.
“It’s a huge gray area,” he said. “Let’s make it fact. Let’s make it law.”
The ordinance states council members have the right to put items on the agenda as long as they are submitted by the end of the Friday before a regular Thursday council meeting, and at least 25 hours ahead of a special meeting.
“It is our opinion that we have not been able to put legislation up when we want to put legislation up, and that’s our job and we want to be able to do our job,” he said.
Miceli, however, said she has never prevented an ordinance from going on the agenda as long as it complied with the open meetings law and she isn’t sure what difference the proposed ordinance would make.
“I want the council members to place any action item they so desire on the agenda, so long as we follow the open meetings laws and we give the public the notice that’s required,” she said.
As for the ordinance that would extend health insurance benefits to the council, Baudier said the state Legislative Auditor’s Office recently pointed out that former Mayor Vinnie Mosca’s May 2013 executive decision to offer health insurance benefits to the council needed to have been done by ordinance.
The benefits for council members ended when the city switched from Blue Cross to Humana in July, and the proposed ordinance would allow council members, the mayor and the police chief to participate in the city’s health insurance plan.
Miceli said that while she supports the desire to ensure the city is following the law, she thinks plugging the city’s $1.2 million deficit should come first.
“Right now, spending money we don’t have doesn’t seem very wise,” she said.
Miceli said, though, that she did not want to say whether she would veto the ordinance if it passes.
“I think we have to let things play out,” she said.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.