Council delays action on measure after contemptuous debate over reason for deferral request
Final Release: Friday, April 9, 2021, at 12:19 PM
MANDEVILLE — The City Council voted to defer action on Mayor Clay Madden’s now controversial proposal to add a new director of administration position to handle day-to-day operations for the city.
The proposal, first introduced at the March 25th meeting, would add two new positions, the other being a grants and contracts administrator, but that post is not the one meeting resistance from some on the Council as well as the public.
The restructuring proposal had been scheduled for a vote at last night’s (Thursday, April 8, 2021) meeting, but when the item came up for consideration Madden instead asked the council to defer action on the measure for two weeks so that he could potentially tweak the plan.
Madden said he had received last-minute feedback from certain parties which could have an effect on the proposal, and he wanted time to take those concerns into account before final action. “My desire is to have y’all vote at the next meeting. Good, bad, or indifferent, I want it to be voted on.”
This seemed to frustrate District II Councilman Skelly Kreller who demanded to know “Why? Why do you want to defer suddenly now?” Madden refused to say exactly who he had talked to that prompted him to ask for the delay, only that it occurred later in the week and he thought it important enough to make this request.
Kreller kept pressing Madden for details. “All of this was dropped on us today, or last night… And we always talk about transparency.”
Madden fired back at Kreller, “As you know I was on the council for eight years and I don’t believe I ever voted against a deferral when the mayor or another councilman simply wanted … additional time.“
If you’re against it, vote against it. I’m asking for another two weeks out of respect.
— Mayor Clay Madden
Some in attendance shared Kreller’s sentiment. Local Eric McVicker, 603 Tops L Drive, addressed the Council with prepared remarks in which he urged that the Council vote on the matter as publicly advertised.
McVicker said that adding a director of administration post is a step toward turning Mandeville into a city-manager form of government.
He added that only 4% of the voters in the primary election last summer voted for a candidate who would favor a city-manager type government for Mandeville. “We deserve better. And we expect better,” he concluded.
In the July 11 election, Chad Bordelon, the only candidate to run on the platform of turning Mandeville into a city-manager government, received just 4% of the vote.
Several Mandeville politicos rose in opposition to deferring the vote.
Jeff Lyons, who ran unsuccessfully for the District III Council seat in 2016 and who is the son of a former Mandeville mayor, expressed sharp criticism for the mayor’s plan: “He wants to tweak the position just to make it more palatable. He’s adding another layer of supervision that’s totally unnecessary.”
Michael Pulaski, who lost the District II Council seat to Kreller in the July 11 election, only addressed the merits of the deferral itself, doubting there would be enough time to change the ordinance by the next meeting. The city charter requires a vote within 30 days of introducing an ordinance.
It sure seems like a lot of these negative opinions may be really rooted in old political grudges and not based on what’s good for the city.
— Janet Smith, Mandeville
However, a number of those in attendance expressed strong support for Madden’s proposal. Janet Smith, 1164 Rue Chinon, said she believes his plan reflects filling the “gaps” found in a recent efficiency report.
Smith is referring to the comprehensive Mandeville Efficiency Study, prepared by Pyramid Consulting, LLC, which was published January 20. It cites numerous deficiencies and recommends restructuring the organization chart and department processes, among other things.
“It sure seems like a lot of these negative opinions may be really rooted in old political grudges and not based on what’s good for the city,” she added.
At the end of debate, Councilman at Large Rick Danielson, District III Councilwoman Jill McGuire and Madden discussed the technicalities involved in making revisions to an ordinance already up for a vote while still meeting the requirement for public advertisement. Generally, they agreed that as long as the changes were minor, the current ordinance could be amended and voted on at the next meeting.
Otherwise, the current ordinance would have to be voted down and the mayor would have to start the process over. McGuire pointed out that if no action is taken, the ordinance is automatically adopted, and therefore it must be voted down and not just withdrawn.
Madden’s insistence on moving forward with the current ordinance as opposed to scrapping it now could indicate that a majority on the Council would be satisfied with only minor changes, allowing the ordinance to be adopted on April 22.
Further indication of how the findings in the efficiency report are related to the mayor’s restructuring proposal came at the end of the meeting in what at first seemed to be an unrelated discussion.
Glenn Runyon of Pyramid Consulting, LLC, who conducted the efficiency report for the city, raised concerns that software recently approved as part of an amended budget, based on recommendations found in the efficiency report, would be wasted if Madden’s proposal were to be rejected.
Councilman at Large Jason Zuckerman disagreed and pressed Runyon to specify which software would only be used for either of the new positions in Madden’s proposal.
Ultimately Runyon conceded that the software is needed regardless, suggesting, however, that a new position would be needed to train or manage those who would use that software.
The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 22.