ST. MARTINVILLE — Much of Tuesday night’s St. Martinville City Council meeting seemed more like a high school civics class than a legislative session as council members and the city’s legal counsel took turns explaining the city’s charter, Robert’s Rules of Order and, in some cases, basic grammar to the mayor.
Mayor Melinda Mitchell had asked that several items the council acted upon at its Aug. 19 meeting be brought back up for discussion. Mitchell and two councilmen, District 4 Councilman Juma Johnson and District 5 Councilman Edmond Joseph, left that meeting after Mitchell tried to gavel it closed.
Instead, Mayor Pro Tem Craig Prosper assumed the chair and, along with District 1 Councilman Mike Fuselier and District 3 Councilman Dennis Paul Williams, continued to conduct the business on the agenda — including the passing of a resolution of censure against Mitchell for not following the city charter in reporting disciplinary action against employees to the council and a resolution referring documents of work done on the sewage lines at the mayor’s house to the state Board of Ethics.
Mitchell presented each councilman with a highlighted copy of a page from the charter at the beginning of the meeting. Mitchell marked the phrase “at his discretion” with reference to the mayor’s ability to take disciplinary action against employees. But in her interpretation, she argued that the phrase referred to a later passage, which requires that any disciplinary action be reported to the council “at their first meeting thereafter.”
“You can’t just stop reading at the comma,” Prosper said. “Any disciplinary action has to be brought before the council. You can’t just choose the charter you like.”
“That’s what y’all do,” Mitchell retorted.
In discussing the issues with the sewage work city workers did at her home, Mitchell said she thought the workers were doing the same work for her they would do for any constituent. She also said, contrary to previous witness statements reported in The Daily Iberian, that she was not present when the workers dug a trench to relieve the backed-up line at her home.
She also said no city funds were spent on the lime — about $11 worth — the worker’s came back and applied to the trench over Easter weekend.
“I had it called in, but I paid for it myself,” Mitchell said.
“Did you pay them for the work?” Fuselier asked. “That was a holiday, so it was like triple time.”
Fuselier explained that the resolution referring the matter to the Board of Ethics was proper.
“We had just come back from the Louisiana Municipal Association conference in Monroe,” Fuselier said. “They told me in a session there that if there is any impropriety, it is my responsibility to report it to the ethics board.”
When Mitchell tried to bring up discussion of an ordinance passed Aug. 19 preventing her from moving employees from jobs they were hired for to completely different jobs without council approval, City Legal Counsel Allan Durand said that one of the members of the prevailing side of the argument would have to bring the issue up.
“Robert’s Rules of Order, number 28,” Durand said before reading the entry.
That requirement kept other discussion items — like why items that Joseph had put on the Aug. 19 agenda were tabled while other items which Mitchell had submitted were acted on, and rehashing the council’s reversal of an unpaid suspension for Public Works Maintenance Supervisor Brian Touchet — from being discussed.
Prosper also explained what constitutes a quorum. On Aug. 19 after Mitchell left the meeting with two councilmen, the remaining three were sufficient to transact business. According to the charter, any two council members and the mayor or any three council members constitute a quorum.
The council went into executive session for a discussion of the suspension of two Public Works employees, Mac Thomassee and Brent Joseph, and a discussion of action against Public Works employee John Richard. The council affirmed the suspension against Thomassee and Joseph and moved to terminate Richard.
A representative of Republic Services was on hand to discuss recent issues with trash pickup and a lack of communication and reporting. He apologized and said the issues would be addressed immediately.
In other business, the council:
Heard a presentation from Keith Baudin, candidate for State Representative District 46, on his interests and goals.
Approved a request from George Choplin on behalf of the Knights of Columbus to hold red-light fundraising drive.
Approved moving forward with demolition process on a dilapidated structure at the corner of Buchanan and Labbe streets.
Announce the scheduled ribbon cutting for the new Magnolia Skate Park Children’s section on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m.
Approved a resolution for Shedrick Berard, who resigned last month after 32 years of service.
Accept the Louisiana Audit Compliance Questionnaire for the fiscal year ending June 30.