Public Deems Council Unworthy of Pay Raise; Council Unanimously Withdraws Ordinance

Bedgood 12-21-15

Rodney Bedgood

With a proposed pay increase of 140% on the Agenda, the final Parish Council meeting for the year, and the last one for outgoing Council members Aaron Johnson and Ricky Lacour, was almost guaranteed to have fireworks on par with those held on Christmas Festival day.  While Mr. Lacour was not present for the meeting, the three incoming Council members were and it certainly was an entertaining send off for the first Parish Council under the Home Rule Charter.

After approving the Minutes for the November meeting and giving the floor over to any visitors at the meeting, the Council went into a Public Hearing to discuss the proposed Ordinance to amend the 2015 budget. There were no comments from the public on that matter so that Public Hearing was closed and the Public Hearing on the proposed pay raise for the Council members was opened.  While the number of residents in attendance for the meeting was relatively small, they did not hesitate to voice their opposition to the pay increase. The common theme of the opinions expressed is that the Council members should not look at their elected positions as a source of income but as compensation for any expenses they may incur as legislators for the Parish. Once the public voiced their opinion, Mr. Bedgood, who was the one who brought up the pay increase at the November meeting and was the Council member who made the motion to introduce the Ordinance stated that he never requested that their pay be increased to $1,200 and suggested that the figure had been fabricated by the media and exacerbated by folks on Facebook. This statement drew ire from the media that were present as they insisted that the figure was indeed requested by Mr. Bedgood and that it is the figure that was printed in the Official Minutes that the Parish must publish in the public notice section of the Natchitoches Times. To resolve the issue, the Minute book was brought into the meeting and the Council Clerk read that section of the November meeting. Incoming Council member Doug de Graffenried waited patiently for Mr. Bedgood to finish speaking and then pointed out that the Council members were now pointing fingers at each other and refusing to claim responsibility for introducing the Ordinance.  In exasperation, Mr. de Graffenried asked, “Is this how Parish business transacted?” to which Mr. Bedgood responded, “Most of the time.”  Mr. de Graffenried could only answer, “Oh, my Lord!”  Another resident approached the podium and asked Mr. Bedgood what he was so angry about. After a few more minutes of discussion, Mr. Bedgood asked if the people would like for him to withdraw the Ordinance, to which the attendees responded with a resounding “YES.”  A motion was made to come out of the Public Hearing and then a motion was made to withdraw the Ordinance for consideration.  The motion passed unanimously and the crowd erupted in applause.

The rest of the meeting included voting to submit an LGAP grant application for additional full-depth asphalt patching work on roads throughout the Parish; awarding bid contracts for the 2016 fiscal year; authorizing the Parish President to enter into a new lease for the compactor station located on Eight Mile Loop; and authorizing the Parish President to enter into Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the Natchitoches Genealogical & Historical Association to relocate their library from the second floor of the Old Courthouse to the first floor.

Due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, the January Council meeting will be held on January 11, 2016 after the swearing in ceremony for the new Council members.

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