The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council now has a new process for filling unexpected vacancies that arise on the council — one they hope will avoid a repeat of the kind of controversy that roiled the legislative body following Buddy Amoroso’s death last year.

The council on Wednesday adopted a new procedure proposed by Councilwoman Chauna Banks that allows qualified residents to apply for open seats on the council should an elected representative not be able to finish his or her term, for whatever reason.

It took Banks three tries over a three-year period to get her fellow council members on board with amending the parish's home rule charter to include her vacancy guidelines. The push started well before the messy process of filling Amoroso’s unexpired term underscored the need for changes.

"I think timing made all the difference," Banks said Thursday.

An unexpected, but passionate, voice of support for Bank's suggestions came from Councilwoman Denise Amoroso who found herself at the center of an unwanted controversy last year when she was appointed to serve out the remainder of her husband’s term as the council member representing for District 8.

Buddy Amoroso was killed in a bicycle accident on June 30 in West Feliciana Parish.

Banks was among the band of Democrats on the Metro Council who tried to block Denise Amoroso’s appointment in a failed attempt to get another Democrat in the seat to create an even split of representation on the council. The ordeal resulted in a contentious meeting of back-and-forth insults along the lines of race and party affiliations.

In comments before the council's vote Wednesday, Denise Amoroso questioned the intent behind Banks' proposed new procedures. She said she’d only support it if the goal was to find replacements who will fulfill the wishes and goals of the person vacating the seat and not another attempt to try and hijack representation of a particular district as she felt was attempted in the wake of her husband's death.

"To have to put up with what I put up with that night in July for four hours is wrong," Amoroso told Banks. "My husband was accused of being a racist and a liar — two weeks after he was tragically struck down. If the goal is to fill the seat with good qualified people, not balance it out racially or any other way, then I'm all for it."

Amoroso on Thursday stood by those statement adding, "I just want to keep people from having to endure what I endured."

Amoroso recently announced she intends to run in the March special election to serve out the remaining two years of her late husband's term on the Metro Council.

In response, Banks said her measure was about breaking the council's tradition of just appointing whomever the person vacating the seat choose as their successor, as was the case in 2016 when councilwomen Ronnie Edwards and C. Denise Marcelle were elected as representatives in the state Legislature.

Both Councilmen Matt Watson and Barbara Freiberg were vocal in their support of Banks's measure. Freiberg said the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, which she served on before becoming a council person, had an "excellent process" in place whenever vacancies were created and she believed the Metro Council needed to have one as well.

Going forward, the recommendations outlined by Banks allows Metro Council to appoint someone within 20 days to serve the remaining time of a vacated seat with one year or less left in the term or until an election could be held if the remaining time is longer than a year.

A notice of the council vacancy will be posted on the city-parish's website asking qualified voters who reside in the same district to submit applications. All applicants meeting the qualifications for the seat will be considered, along with any other person nominated by a member of the Metro Council.

"The way we were doing it excluded the Plan of Government and made people feel like they didn't have a chance to step into public service," Banks said. "We really needed some inclusion."


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