GONZALES — Two chairs at the council table were empty — one vacated by a recall, the other by a resignation — when the Gonzales City Council on Wednesday approved a temporary replacement for one of those positions and recommended that the governor appoint another person for the other slot.
Retired city employee Barbara Duhe will fill the Division C spot on the council until a new member is elected to fill the unexpired term of Timothy Vessel, who was recalled by voters on Dec. 6.
And the council signed off on Mayor Barney Arceneaux’s pending recommendation to Gov. Bobby Jindal to appoint general contractor David Guitreau as the interim for the position formerly held by Gary Lacombe, who resigned on Nov. 25, two weeks before the recall election that also targeted him.
Both Duhe and Guitreau were in the audience at Wednesday’s meeting and were met by applause and a standing ovation.
“Welcome aboard,” Arceneaux said, noting that their first official meeting of the council will be on Jan. 12.
Voters in a March 28 special election will decide among the candidates to fill the remainder of Vessel’s and Lacombe’s terms, both of which end Dec. 31, 2016.
The City Council had opted against naming an interim replacement for Lacombe, instead allowing its 20-day period for doing so to lapse so that Jindal would make the interim appointment. Arceneaux said Guitreau’s name will be submitted to the governor on Thursday, then certified by the Secretary of State.
After the meeting, Arceneaux said the council waited to call Wednesday’s special session until after two important deadlines: the nine days that Vessel had to contest the recall election results and the 20 days the city had to name a replacement for Lacombe after his resignation.
The first deadline ended at 4:30 p.m. Monday and the second deadline ended at midnight Monday.
Under state law, the two men could have continued to attend council meetings until the deadlines specific to each of their circumstances, Arceneaux said.
“We didn’t want them to come back and approve somebody of their own liking,” Arceneaux said.
Vessel did attend the last regular meeting of the council, on Dec. 8, the Monday after he had been recalled on Dec. 6.
The two former councilmen had historically voted with Councilman Terance Irvin in a three-man voting bloc that played a large part in the recall effort launched in April.
“It’s certainly a good feeling knowing we have people coming in here with an open mind,” Arceneaux said of Duhe and Guitreau.
Arceneaux said the council will be looking at “getting our budget back in the right direction and our economic development team in the right direction.”
In the past year, Irvin, Lacombe and Vessel made cuts to the city’s capital outlay budget, in the Police Department, and in the general fund budget, for the Ascension Economic Development Corp.