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Ferriday mayor sued for veto

Ferriday — The Baton Rouge company once hoping to take over the Town of Ferriday’s water operations is suing the town’s mayor, claiming the mayor had no authority to veto the decision to award the bid in April.

An Alexandria attorney representing G.E.N.T.’s Enterprises LLC filed a civil lawsuit Thursday in the Seventh Judicial District Court against Gene Allen in his official capacity as mayor of the Town of Ferriday.

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

At a specially-called meeting in April, the town’s Board of Aldermen 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.

The lawsuit states that Allen “without any statutory authority vetoed the vote of the Board of Alderman and has refused to sign the contract.”

The lawsuit also states on July 9, Allen improperly and without proper notice to the public added to the board’s agenda, a motion to extend the contract of JCP Management.

Allen declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday saying he had not received a copy.

Gregory and Evelyn Braud of G.E.N.T’s said the decision to file a lawsuit was based on Allen’s “total disregard of the law.”

“The law is made for us to follow, we followed the producer process, but (Allen) didn’t follow it,” Evelyn Braud said. “We just want Ferriday to get some clean drinking water and that’s what the council voted to let us do.”

A judge has not yet set a date for Allen and representatives of G.E.N.T’s to appear in court.

Messages left to officials at G.E.N.T’s were not returned Monday.

In October, Ferriday Alderman Elijah “Stepper” Banks requested an Attorney General opinion regarding Allen’s veto decision.

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.”

Allen said at the time the opinion didn’t impact the town’s water situation because the board didn’t bring the matter up at the next meeting after the veto.

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.