Jul 16, 2012 11:13 PM by Maddie Garrett
The Youngsville City Council voted last week to propose re-dedicating half of a one cent sales tax. The tax is currently earmarked for police protection, the re-dedication would make it available for use in other departments such as fire and infrastructure, in addition to police.
But one of the council members voting also happens to be the volunteer fire chief. KATC returned to Youngsville to find out if there's a conflict of interest.
The council vote was unanimous. And even then, voters must approve re-dedicating half of the 1981 one cent sales tax before it ever goes into affect. So why should councilman Tim Barbier's vote be any different from the other council members?
"I feel comfortable with him voting on the issues because I think he's checked that out," said Mayor Wilson Viator.
Barbier served as a volunteer fire fighter for 20 years in Youngsville. In 2006, voters also elected him onto the city council. Now, he's also serving as fire chief. He said he knew there could be a conflict there.
"In order to keep it from being a conflict, we took that extra money that was paid to the fire chief and added extra personnel here to give the city extra coverage in the fire department," said Barbier.
According the Louisiana Board of Ethics, it's the fact that he doesn't collect a salary as fire chief as the reason why he can legally vote on matters pertaining to the fire department, like the one cent sales tax.
"So yes, some of the funding is going to help, but I want the people to understand that this is not the fire department against the police department. This money will still be accessible to the police department, it's going to be used for police, for fire and for infrastructure," said Barbier.
At the council meetings, Barbier speaks up for the fire department, but as a council member he said he works with all departments, including police.
The re-dedication of the one-cent sales tax goes before voters on November 6, 2012. The proposal is that half of the revenues remains just for police protection. Under the proposal, the other half could be used for fire and infrastructure in addition to police.
If approved the re-dedication would be in place for only two years. After that, all of the one-cent sales tax would return to police.