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AG: Ferriday mayor overstepped boundaries

Published 12:06am Tuesday, June 25, 2013

FERRIDAY — The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office responded to a Ferriday alderman’s request Thursday saying Mayor Gene Allen violated the Lawrason Act when he denied a special meeting request in October.

Alderman Elijah “Stepper” Banks submitted a request to the Attorney General after he believed Allen overstepped his boundaries by denying a special meeting to discuss economic development projects Banks and three other aldermen supported.

The meeting was intended to discuss two resolutions drafted by Banks relating to an industry relocating to Ferriday and the creation of a Ferriday Economic Development Advisory Committee.

Allen replied to Banks in a letter denying the request.

“I have determined that the reason that is listed as to why this meeting should be held does not meet the requirements to call a special meeting,” Allen wrote in an October letter. “Thus I am denying the request, which this council knows will only place an additional burden on the city financially.”

In a letter from Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell’s office, the response states Louisiana law allows special meetings of the mayor and board of aldermen may be called by the mayor or a majority of the members of the board.

“It is the opinion of this office that the mayor of a Lawrason Act community may not refuse to hold a special meeting which has been called for by a majority of the board of aldermen,” Caldwell wrote in the letter.

The letter states that the refusal to host a special meeting called for by a majority of the board of aldermen is an allegation that the mayor has failed to fulfill his duties as a public official.

The letter also stated that the board’s only legal option is to seek a court order to compel the performance of a duty required by law.

“As this office does not operate as a fact finder, it would not be appropriate for this office to make a factual determination relative to the mayor’s conduct,” the letter stated.

Allen said he was aware of the specifics of the law, but felt the meeting Banks requested was unnecessary.

“We had just had a meeting and talked about the same thing, and we were going to talk about the same things at the other meeting, too,” Allen said. “I don’t have a problem with the rules, we just weren’t able to have that meeting.”

Banks said he would review the document carefully before deciding what action to take next.

“I want him to understand the board is here to work with him and not against him,” Banks said. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do next, but I know I have to take this to the board.

“He made a bad decision, and he’s got to respect the law.”