Port Allen, LA Update – 12/25/13

Port Allen City Council sets January budget hearing

By Terry L. Jones
tjones@theadvocate.com

PORT ALLEN — City leaders took a step toward Port Allen’s financial stability Monday night by setting a budget hearing in January where interim Mayor Lynn Robertson expects the City Council to finally adopt a 2013-14 fiscal year budget.

But before the City Council entertained a vote to introduce the new spending plan, it had to relive its contentious time with former mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter through the presentation of an audit report for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Gov. Bobby Jindal appointed Robertson to serve as interim mayor on Dec. 17 after the City Council failed to reach a consensus on the appointment within its 20-day deadline.

Robertson and the City Council were told during a special meeting Monday the city would be cited for several internal issues in its annual audit, which will be presented to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor for final approval next month.

In the report, auditors said approximately $25,000 worth in past due fees for customer utility accounts were not collected in the 2012-13 budget year due to a software glitch in the city’s new billing system.

Auditors said Monday night the problem has already been addressed by the current administration.

But auditors panned Slaughter and the City Council for not properly amending the 2012 budget when the mayor’s annual salary and car allowance exceeded authorized amounts.

The audit report cites the council for not following the July 2 ruling from a state district court judge requiring the council to amend its 2012-13 budget to reflect the higher salary amount. The report criticizes Slaughter as well for not seeking court approval to collect the $84,000 salary.

According to the audit report, the city also violated “specific technical requirements” of its bond covenants and failed to comply with its own personnel hiring procedures.

In a letter presented to the council Monday, auditors also suggested the City Council review all the legal bills paid to attorneys Slaughter hired to represent her in several lawsuits when she served as mayor.

The letter suggests the council determine whether it will force Slaughter to pay the city back for her legal expenses.

Lastly, auditors slammed the city for not adopting a 2013-14 fiscal year budget by June 30 — the end of the 2012-13 budget year.

The council took strides Monday night to remedy the issue by unanimously adopting an ordinance introducing another proposed spending plan for 2014.

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