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Ferriday alderman arguing mayoral veto decision

FERRIDAY — One Ferriday alderman is challenging a decision made five months ago by Mayor Gene Allen to veto a Baton Rouge company taking over the town’s water operations.

Elijah “Stepper” Banks requested an Attorney General opinion regarding Allen’s veto of a decision by the board of aldermen seeking to accept a bid from G.E.N.T.’s Enterprises LLC.

The company was the only one to submit a bid before the April deadline. A bid from JCP Management, the town’s current management company, came in late.

At a specially called meeting in April, the board accepted the G.E.N.T.’s proposal in a 3-2 vote. Allen vetoed the board’s motion to accept the proposal.

Allen said following the meeting he vetoed the motion because enough information about the company wasn’t available at the time.

A letter from Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell’s office stated the veto power of the mayor extends only to laws, by-laws and ordinances passed by majority vote of the board of aldermen and that it does not apply to action taken by the board on a simple motion.

“Accordingly, the mayor had no authority to veto the board of aldermen’s motion to accept the timely submitted proposal for operation and maintenance of the town’s water system,” the opinion stated. “The fact that the board of aldermen’s vote to accept a submitted proposal was 3 in favor and 2 opposed is not a sufficient reason for the mayor to refuse to sign a contract.”

Banks said the opinion means the town’s current contract with JCP Management should no longer be valid.

“The contract should now be null and void,” Banks said. “They can’t work that contract anymore because he vetoed the other contract.”

Allen, however, said the opinion doesn’t impact the town’s current water situation at all.

“The board has acted on our current water situation several times since that,” Allen said. “We’ve moved forward as a town.

“I don’t have a vote on the board, so the board has made all the decisions since then, and we’ve acted on the board’s decisions.”

According to the Lawrason Act, an ordinance vetoed by the mayor must be considered again by the board at its next regular meeting following the veto.

“They didn’t bring it up at that meeting, and I haven’t heard anything since then,” Allen said. “If I veto something, than they have the right to come back and bring it up, but that never happened.”

Banks said he would bring the matter up at the next board of aldermen meeting on Oct. 8.

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