BAY ST. LOUIS -- After lengthy arguments and threats of legal action by council members at Tuesday's meeting, the mayor met their demands and brought original vendor invoices to the council chambers to be inspected until Thursday's meeting.
The council's motion to approve payment to the city's vendors failed by a 2-4 vote as the mayor continued to hold out on furnishing original invoices for them to inspect.
Council members Bobby Compretta and Doug Seal voted to pay the city's vendors. Mike Favre, Joey Boudin, Jeffrey Reed and Lonnie Falgout voted against. Wendy McDonald was absent.
It was a stalemate rekindled from the Oct. 6 meeting when the council refused to vote on the payments because invoices were not provided ahead of time. The council was to reconvene Oct. 8 but council members, who expected the invoices to arrive during that time, boycotted it.
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"I don't think we need to hold these vendors hostage because of a disagreement with the administration," Compretta said before Tuesday's vote. "If it doesn't pass it doesn't pass. I respect everybody's opinion. I'd like to be on the record myself that I want to pay these vendors."
Boudin agreed with Compretta but said the administration should comply with an ordinance the council passed a year ago requiring invoices and other records be provided the Friday before Tuesday meetings.
Boudin's argument for demanding original invoices is based on the preliminary audit findings that came out over the summer.
"With the audits we've seen," he said, "if we go back and look at the money, that supplemental agreement, the forfeiture funds, the fire truck purchased without a purchase order, I'm not doing nothing without originals."
Moving council chambers
In a heated exchange with Boudin, Mayor Les Fillingame said the originals need to be kept in a secure place and the council members can view them any time at City Hall.
He surprised the council when he said he intends to move the council chambers across the street to City Hall.
"The duplicity that y'all are wanting to require of the administration to duplicate all this stuff so that y'all can maintain two sets of records -- one here and one there -- is pretty ridiculous," he said. "It's not cost effective. It's not reasonable. That is why we are going to immediately start moving this office back under the roof of City Hall."
The council members, with grins of astonishment, looked at one another until Boudin said, "Who decided that?"
"I did," the mayor said.
Several council members began speaking at once, saying the mayor couldn't move their office, and the mayor was saying he could. Laughter erupted among the spectators, prompting Compretta to bang his gavel and call the room to order.
"I think we need to get all these investigations behind us before we get the council involved with all that over there," Boudin said, referring to the ongoing federal probe into missing U.S. Department of Justice money.
The mayor said it is not an investigation but rather a "DOJ review."
"Review?" Boudin fired back. "The people I talked to said 'investigators.' They didn't say 'review board.' The badges they flashed said 'investigators.'"
Writ of mandamus
Falgout moved to have City Attorney Donald Rafferty file a writ of mandamus to force the administration to comply with the council's invoice ordinance. A writ of mandamus is an order from a court that a government official fulfill his or her duties.
Rafferty responded the city attorney may not take the side of the mayor or the council.
Laughter erupted among those in attendance.
During the Oct. 6 meeting, Boudin had claimed it was a conflict of interest when Rafferty admitted to drafting the mayor's vetoes of council actions passed at the Aug. 18 meeting, including the council's motion to request the DOJ probe.
Rafferty said if the council wanted a writ of mandamus, it would have to hire an outside attorney.
Boudin asked the mayor to reconsider. Both sides settled on having the invoices brought to the chambers following the meeting, to be inspected before the council reconvenes at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.