City delays hiring civil service attorney

Published 5:22 am Friday, June 9, 2017

The Bogalusa City Council delayed a decision on whether to hire a civil service attorney for the city, after several members of the public and council members questioned the idea during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Bogalusa mayor Wendy Perrette requested for the council to pass a resolution authorizing the city to hire Briney Foret Corry, LLP, of Lafayette, to serve as the city’s attorney for all civil service matters. During discussion, Perrette said the firm would primarily assist the city as it works to update union contracts with the Bogalusa Police Department and Bogalusa Fire Department. It would also be used for civil service litigation appeals.

Malcom Moses, a resident of Bogalusa and regular attendee at council meetings, questioned why the city should hire an additional attorney in its current financial situation.

“If we’re operating in the red already, how can we afford to hire an attorney,” he asked. “We can’t even afford to get lights in Davis Park. I imagine that this attorney would cost more than all the lights at Davis Park would cost for our children to have ball played in their park.

“You’ve got (lights) on the other side of Avenue B, but we can’t get lights because y’all want an attorney? I think something’s wrong. The picture’s not being painted properly.”

Another citizen, Angelo Pepe, said that hiring the attorney would be a violation of the city charter.

“The city charter says that the city attorney shall serve as legal advisor to the mayor, city council and all departments, offices and agencies,” Pepe said. “And shall represent the city in all legal processions except criminal cases. This is not a criminal case, so according to the charter, Mr. Dale Branch, who is the city attorney, should be representing the city.

“If you pass this (resolution), you’re going to be violating the city charter.”

Later in the meeting, Branch explained that the city is permitted to hire additional attorneys for special needs, as long as the council first approves those hires in a public meeting.

Marvin Austin, another citizen who regularly attends council meetings, also spoke out in opposition against the proposed hire.

City council member Brian McCree expressed his concerns with spending limited funds on a new attorney, as well.

“We sit around here and we always say that we’re scrapped for money,” he said. “I’ve been hearing this for the two years and five months that I’ve been here … But yet it still seems to me, the city has funds for whatever the city wants to do. But when it comes to something for the public, the city never has any money.

“If we don’t have no money, let’s not spend any money. We’ve got an attorney, Mr. Branch … I know he’s sharp as a tack. We can use him for anything that he needs to do.”

McCree also asked Branch if he was “well-versed in civil service law.” Branch said he is familiar with that section of law, but is not always clear on what happens when the Civil Service Board makes its decision and it is appealed to a higher court — usually federal.

City council member Gloria Kates asked Perrette who had been previously handling the city’s civil service appeals. Perrette said it has been Branch, and Kates asked why he cannot continue handling them.

“With no disrespect to Mr. Branch,” Perrette said. “But it’s 2017, and with the new media things and policies that are in place, I think (this new attorney) is someone that would be more equipped to handle it.”

Kates also asked whether the attorney was present at Tuesday’s meeting. Perrette said he was not, but she would be happy to have him attend the next meeting. At this point, Kates called for a motion to table the resolution, and her motion was seconded by Doug Ritchie. The decision to table was unanimous.

Later in the meeting, the city approved several resolutions and ordinances related to the airport, as follows:

  • A resolution authorizing the mayor to execute an agreement with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) for improvements at the George R. Carr Memorial Airport for North Obstruction Clearing (passed 6-1, with McCree against).
  • A resolution authorizing the mayor to execute an agreement with LADOTD for airport improvements for the Partial Parallel Taxiway-Phase II Final Design (passed 5-1, with McCree against and Kates abstaining).
  • An ordinance authorizing the mayor to enter into a Supplemental Agreement No. 7 Environment Assessment at the airport (passed 5-1, with McCree against and Kates abstaining).
  • An ordinance authorizing the mayor to enter into a Supplemental Agreement No. 8 Inspection and Construction Administration for Partial Parallel Taxiway Part 2 at the airport (passed 6-1, with McCree against).
  • An ordinance authorizing the mayor to enter into a Supplemental Agreement No. 9 Taxiway Alternate Design at the airport (passed 5-1, with McCree against and Kates abstaining).

Prior to the votes, McCree expressed his concerns that the city was making so many improvements to the airports, but not enough to streets and infrastructure. Airport manager Louis Busby noted that the improvement work is being done through federal and state grant funding, and does not cost the city a dime.

Among other business, the city:

  • Unanimously approved a resolution declaring the radio tower next to the Bogalusa Police Department headquarters as a surplus property which is no longer needed for public use, and to authorize the public works department to advertise for bids for removal.
  • Introduced two ordinances. The first would amend Ordinance No. 2511 pertaining to underground burials; depth in the Bogalusa Cemetery and the Ponemah Cemetery. The second would authorize the mayor to enter into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement No. 2 for Project Save Bogalusa. Both ordinances will be opened for public comment at the next city council meeting, prior to their vote.
  • Presented a certificate to Glenda Stevenson for 30 years served in the Bogalusa School System. The city also recognized JoAnn Frazier for her 35 years served in the Bogalusa School System.
  • Heard from Moses, who spoke for approximately six minutes on “community development.”

The next meeting of the Bogalusa City Council will be Tuesday, June 20, at 5:30 p.m.