UPDATE: Mayor shuts down Ferriday government for lack of budget

Published 5:37 pm Thursday, January 27, 2022

FERRIDAY — Ferriday Town Hall and all departments tied to it, including police and fire departments, were temporarily closed Thursday because town officials failed to adopt a budget during a Wednesday special-called meeting.

Ferriday Mayor Rydell Turner said while Ferriday Town Hall and all government functions are closed pending the outcome of Monday’s meeting, Turner said “everything is fine.”

Resources were pulled in from Concordia Parish to continue providing law enforcement and fire protection to citizens, he said.

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The town has been ordered by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office to not spend more than 50% of its last operating budget until a new budget is approved. Turner has scheduled another special-called meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, where he expects the aldermen will approve the budget.

“At this point, we have to hold up operations until we can get the budget passed,” he said. “Come Monday, I think we can get this issue resolved. I’ve talked to our board members and they’ve agreed to come Monday and get the budget on track. I’m sure it will get passed.”

Alderwomen Brandi Bacon, Gloria Lloyd and Alderman Andre Keys voted against the budget Wednesday while Elijah “Stepper” Banks and Gail Pryor voted in favor.

Diane Allison, director of local government services at the Louisiana Legislative Auditors Office, said Turner decided to stop spending to remain compliant with the 50% rule.

“At this point, the solution would be for the town officials to come together and adopt a budget,” she said. “We don’t step in and do that for them. Failure to adopt a budget could be malfeasance in office and that is up to the district attorney.”

The proposed budget reflects a surplus of $293,854 with an estimated total revenue of $3,042,604 and total government expenses of $2,823,750.

The projected sales tax revenue is $1.2 million and the projected ad valorem tax revenue is $275,000. Salaries make up $1,210,000 of the expenses.

“It’s the same budget they had since before I got here,” Turner said Thursday. “I don’t understand why they won’t vote for it.”

Videos of town meetings recorded on the town’s social media page show the board had a meeting scheduled for Jan. 4 to introduce the budget. However, the meeting was rescheduled because there was not a quorum present. The same three aldermen who voted against the budget, Keys, Lloyd and Bacon, were absent during the Jan. 4 meeting.

Another meeting was scheduled for Jan. 11 and the budget was introduced. A budget hearing had then been advertised in the Concordia Sentinel on Jan. 12 and Jan. 19 before Wednesday’s meeting, Turner said.

A video of the Jan. 11 meeting shows Lloyd asked for a bank statement showing the money the town received from the federal COVID-19 Stimulus Package. Lloyd also said she had not received a financial report since September, to which Turner said, “We will make sure we get that to you.”

A separate recording of the board’s Wednesday meeting shows Lloyd saying she could not vote on the budget because she still did not have the reports she asked for.

“I’m not going to be able to vote for the budget because we haven’t had a financial report since September,” she said. “I asked for a financial report two months ago and haven’t gotten it. At the last meeting, I asked for a financial report and I haven’t gotten it. I asked for a copy of the recovery funds, over $600,000. We don’t know what is in that fund and we don’t know where it is going and we couldn’t get the budget amended because we didn’t have a budget.”

Lloyd also said the COVID-19 relief money had been allocated in the budget to pay town employees each $3,000 without the board’s approval.

“That money was supposed to be put in the bank. We voted on it in September to put that money in the bank and we were going to sit down and budget the money out and the money wasn’t supposed to be spent without the approval of the board. Three of us specifically voted to put that money in the bank,” she said.

In response, Turner said, “I put (the financial report) in your box. I personally put it there.”

He added each alderman received an itemized report of where the stimulus funds could be spent. Keys echoed Lloyd’s concerns about the COVID-19 relief fund.

“We haven’t come back to the board and said this is x, y and z—this is how much we’re going to spend—on black and white. Then the board has to pass it,” Keys said.

“We did that already,” Turner said.

“Mayor Turner, we have not passed that,” Lloyd said. “I want a copy of the bank statement of what has been taken out—”

Lloyd was interrupted by Turner hitting the table with his gavel.

“Let’s just do a roll call for the budget,” he said.

“Let me finish. You’re not going to disrespect me,” Lloyd said.

Turner, talking over Lloyd, said, “You’ve said you’re not going to vote for it. Let’s do a roll call vote.”

With that, three aldermen voted against the budget down and the meeting was adjourned.