Audit highlights issues in Port Allen city finances last fiscal year

Audit highlights issues in Port Allen city finances last fiscal year
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Monday, February 17, 2014 - 9:15pm

A new audit released Monday highlights problems with the city's finances and top officials practices during the last fiscal year.

The report highlighted several problems during then Mayor Deedy Slaughter's time in office.

One of the issues cited in the report was "The mayor hired personnel without following the procedures outlined in the ordinance." The report said this could leave the city open to the possibility of a legal action by applicants.

That's why Port Allen City Council member Gary Hubble, said the council introduced a new ordinance last week to help give the city's current hiring policy more teeth.

"Some people say there was some gray area in some of these ordinances or some of these practices last year. It really wasn't a gray area. It was stated in these code of ordinances this is what you do," Hubble said. "... It's either yes or no and that's really what you want to be, so you don't have any discrepancies there at all."

It's one of several ordinances introduced last week Hubble said aimed fixing problems listed in the audit. The ordinances could be voted on next month.

"We are making every effort possible. I know the city council is making every effort possible to correct anything that we need to correct with these ordinances that we are trying to put in there right now," Hubble said.

Mayor Deedy Slaughter said she did not violate hiring protocols.

She said in a statement to NBC33 News: "The process used by the Mayor for hiring personnel in this audit period was reviewed by the Legislative Auditor office. No findings were noted or recommendations made by the Legislative Auditor. The Port Allen Council has traditionally approved all employees hired by the City. This process, however, is not in compliance with Louisiana Revised Statute 33:404 of the Lawrason Act, which authorizes the Mayor to appoint all employees. R.S. 33:404 also states that no ordinance may limit the authority granted to the mayor by this paragraph. The Port Allen ordinance concerning the employment procedures were followed including the advertisement in the official journal, the nondiscrimination and the presentation to the city council. The only difference from appointments made by previous mayors was that the City Council was notified by the Mayor of the employees to be hired in accordance with the state law rather than requesting the approval of the City Council which would limit the authority granted by the Lawrason Act."

When it comes to money the city has paid to law firms representing the Mayor in civil court. Auditors recommended "The city council should review items that have been paid and determine whether to pursue restitution from the mayor procedures should be established to ensure legal fees are reviewed and approved by the city council prior to payment. "

"It is my personal feeling that we are not obligated to any of these legal fees as the council did not approve it, and this is stated in the Lawrason Act," Hubble said.

Interim Mayor of Port Allen, Lynn Robertson, said she is looking into this issue with the city attorney.

Former Mayor Slaughter said, "The only legal fees paid by me as Mayor was the legal fees for the city attorney Victor Woods and a payment to Attorney Ron Johnson before the July 2. 2013 hearing. "

'The Judge did not rule that attorney fees could not be paid. He ruled that any payments had to comply with RS 33:386 (C). The City Attorney was representing me in the first legal hearing. After some of the council members complained that he may be potentially conflicted between the council and the mayor , the city attorney was obligated to hire legal representation to cover the mayor in her official capacity. Had the CPA provided me with this finding as I requested I would have told him he should have check with the City Attorney Victor Woods who stated that Judge Batiste indicated that the payment of fees did not apply to legal work for attorneys before the date of his ruling. I did not pay any attorneys after the date of his ruling nor did I exceed the budget for legal fees,' Slaughter said.

Some people living in Port Allen say they were not shocked by the findings of the audit released Monday. Residents say some of the issues had been discussed in a city council meeting during December.

"These findings as they come out show that Deedy Slaughter was not doing what was in the best interest of the citizens and the City of Port Allen," Jason Hammack, Port Allen resident and business owner, said.

He says he's seen a difference in the way things have been run in city hall the past few months.

"City government can function properly because the problems are being fixed. the problems that the auditor have found have been fixed by the current administration or in the process of being fixed by the current administration," Hammack said.

 

For more on the full audit click here.
For more on former Mayor Slaughter's response see attached.
 

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Former Mayor Slaughter's response.doc32 KB

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