Changes to East Baton Rouge Plan of Government head to November ballot

BATON ROUGE, La. — The East Baton Rouge Metro Council voted to let the constituents decide if the parish will move forward with proposed changes to East Baton Rouge’s Plan of Government, which include giving Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome her own attorney and adding a new administrative position to the mayor’s office.

The council approved the changes after an hour discussion with a 7-2-2 vote at the March 27th meeting. The item will go on the Nov. 5 ballot for a vote. Council members Cleve Dunn Jr. and Mayor Pro Tem Lamont Cole abstained from voting. Council members Carolyn Coleman and Chauna Banks voted no.

Metro Council member Rowdy Gaudet is leading the charge on the proposed changes. Among those changes is the creation of a new executive counsel position for the mayor-president to use for legal guidance instead of the parish attorney. It would also change the chief administrative officer position into a city-parish manager. A proposed change would allow the Metro Council to confirm the manager before the mayor fills the position.

“Every proposed amendment in this document is made out of a public policy perspective,” Gaudet said. “There’s no, ‘this gives a win to the mayor-president’s office, this gives a win to the council’ … The win here is for our residents. Our residents deserve a continuously improving local government.”

Gaudet also wants to require that candidates for the Metro Council be residents of the district and parish for at least one year before qualifying for office and that mayor-president candidates be parish residents for at least two years before qualifying.

Other changes being proposed: 

  • Requiring the council budget officer to attend all budget hearings conducted by the Office of the Mayor-President and the Finance Department.
  • Moving up the submission date of the mayor’s expense and capital budgets to the Metro Council from Nov. 15 to Oct. 15, providing an extra month for budget evaluation.
  • Pushing back the date of adoption of the expense budget by the Metro Council from Dec. 15 to Dec. 31, providing additional time for budget evaluation.
  • Removing requirements stating that council members make $1,000 per month, allowing for the council to change their salaries in the future.
  • Changing and removing out-of-date language, like changing “he” to “he or she.”

Dante Bidwell is the chief administrative officer and he expressed the concerns of the mayor’s office regarding the requirement that the council approve future city-parish manager hires.

“While we have a strong working relationship here today, we don’t know what 2025 is going to look like,” Bidwell said. “We don’t know what the next administration is going to look like on our side of the hall or this side of the hall. The point of council approval or appointment is the one area we are still concerned about.”

Council members Carolyn Coleman and Chauna Banks expressed concerns over the changes to the mayor’s organizational chart. Coleman said the changes read as though the new city-parish manager would be taking over the duties of the mayor-president and that it appeared as if there was “somebody already being thought of” for the position.

“I just have a concern about all of this,” Coleman said. “I guess that’s why I wasn’t contacted regarding having some of this conversation here before a day or so. I just don’t see us in good consciousness talking about making a change in the plan of government.” 

Banks and Coleman said they hadn’t had enough opportunity to discuss the changes before the meeting, which Gaudet pushed back on and said he had emailed the entire council about the changes two weeks ago.

Dunn Jr. offered a substitute motion to defer the item for two weeks until the Metro Council’s next meeting. Gaudet voted to postpone the item, but the motion failed 5-3.

Aaron Moak supported the resolution and stated the amendments to the plan of government provide security to the public and do not put all the responsibility on the mayor’s office. 

“All of this is in the hands of the constituents,” Moak said. “We’re just making the decision today to allow the constituents to make that choice. I’m all for letting the public body and constituents make these choices that affect their lives daily.”

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