St. Landry

Aug 2, 2012 2:02 AM by Jim Hummel

St. Landry Council Considers Veto Overrides at Contentious Meeting

At a special meeting Wednesday night, the St. Landry Parish Council voted to consider overriding a number of vetoes handed down by Parish President Bill Fontenot.

The meeting was often contentious, and Fontenot found himself on the defensive with a calculated, critical and aggressive line of questioning from councilwoman Pam Gautreau. After the meeting, Fontenot made it clear he was disheartened with the discourse and the tone of some council members, namely Gautreau.

"All they seem to want to do those three or four is talk about the past and butt heads with the president's office, it's very non-productive," said Fontenot.

For her part, Gautreau says she is speaking on behalf of her constituents.

"There is not a personal issue here," she said. "This is about when we get behind these chairs we are council members, we do not represent ourselves in these chairs we represent the people of our district, there are 5,000 people sitting right here, when I speak."

Fontenot recently vetoed five ordinances passed by the council, but only two of those ordinances received the nine council votes required to proceed with an override.

The first, is ordinance no. 2012-007, which calls for the levying of a 4% administrative fee on all gross proceeds collected from the slot machine revenue. Fontenot's issue with the ordinance is that it calls for said fees to be dedicated solely to road materials, but not salaries.

In a letter to the council, Fontenot wrote: "I am exercising my veto power with respect to this ordinance because I have been informed that all administrative fees are specifically intended to be used for administrative purposes. The practice of the parish government in years past has been that all administrative fees collected by the parish government are transferred into the parish government's general fund for use for administrative expenses only. This fund is a dedicated fund, but allows the parish government to pay administrative expenses as necessary. Ordinance 2012-007 violates the prior established practices of the parish government, and deprives the parish government of the flexibility needed in spending dedicated funds."

The next veto subject to an override by the council is ordinance no. 2012-009, which would establish a board or a commission to exercise administrative functions for the Delta Grand theater in Opelousas.

In a letter to the council, Fontenot wrote, in part: "I am exercising my veto power with respect to this ordinance because the ordinance is in derogation of and usurps the authority of the parish president granted to him/her under the St. Landry Parish Home Rule Charter."

An official veto override vote on ordinances 2012-007 and 2002-009 will take place at the council's next meeting in two weeks.

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