The Port Allen City Council was split in its decision Wednesday to reimburse Mayor Richard Lee the $185 he paid out-of-pocket to decorate a float he rode in the city’s Black History Month Parade. Ultimately, with a 3-2 vote, he will be paid.
Lee had approached the council’s community development committee last week asking for the funds, saying his last-minute entry was intended to show community involvement from the city.
The council appropriated $2,500 for the Feb. 9 parade but when one of the entrants, the Port Allen High School band, pulled out of the event, the group reimbursed the city the $450 it was allocated to fund their float.
Lee then decided to use that money to put a city float in the parade, but his move never came before the city council for approval because he made the expenditures between council meeting dates.
Lee said the majority of his expense was covered with the $450, but the $185 he was seeking was additional out-of-pocket funds he used to decorate the float.
The mayor's request had come at an evolving time for city events: The council decided this past year to fund events on a case-by-case basis in an attempt to curb overspending, especially on events that had been poorly attended in past years. Council members Gary Hubble and Hugh Riviere pushed for the event funding reform, and on Wednesday they voted against reimbursing Lee.
Their votes were an apparent follow from the skepticism they’d shown at the previous week’s meeting.
Hubble questioned the float’s expense being designated as “float for Mayor Lee & Family” in the event’s budget. Lee said at the committee meeting that council members Carey Williams and Ray Helen Lawrence, in addition his members of his family, rode the float. He said the other council members were invited, but didn’t attend.
“I just don’t see why we should kick in another $200, that’s just my thought,” Riviere had said at the committee meeting.
That lukewarm reaction led Lee to question the council’s willingness to get involved in the community, and he delivered an impromptu speech on the need for the council to do more than “sit behind a desk.”
“Are we going to sit back behind the desk and just allow our community just to run wild or are we going to take our active role as leaders in this community and do something?” he told the council.