Alexandria City Council members push back against Mayor Jeff Hall following court hearing

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 7:19 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 11:05 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Alexandria Mayor Jeff Hall’s administration and the city council have been at a stalemate since late March over an ongoing legal battle on how to properly balance the city’s amended budget.

On Monday, Rapides Parish Judge Patricia Koch gave both parties 30 more days to work together, but that could turn out to be more of an uphill battle after Mayor Hall released a video and an accompanying press release on social media.

In the video, the mayor said, “Because of the action of the city council, which the judge has confirmed are improper, you have had to wait for the pay increases that were included in the original budget as well as the health benefits savings. We proposed that you could have had that starting as early as May 1. I regret this has happened and we are committed to getting this fixed as soon as possible.”

Following the video being posted, council members responded and said they are disappointed with the mayor’s response to what took place in court and what their plan is moving forward.

District 1 Councilman Reddex Washington said, “My perspective what I got from being in the courtroom yesterday morning, was the judge said let’s set aside the different personalities. She didn’t say, city council members set aside your different personalities. She said let’s all set aside our different personalities.”

Council members Washington, Cynthia Perry and Catherine Davidson are now speaking out after the city’s administration filed a lawsuit over the amended city budget.

“We know what we want. They know what they want,” said District 3 Councilwoman Cynthia Perry. “They know that we’re not going to change our minds on the decisions that we made. We made these decisions for the police officers, for blighted houses, for drainage and for our constituents. We need them to accept that we’re here and are going to stand behind what we voted on.”

The three council members said Mayor Hall misinterpreted Judge Koch’s orders, specifically when it comes for them to work together to balance the city’s budget to make it fall in line with the Louisiana Budgetary Act and the city’s charter.

The council wants to give two million dollars to the Alexandria Police Department for raises and benefits and eliminate the city’s Public Safety Commissioner position to help pay for recruiting officers to fill a growing vacancy.

“I sat down in before a finance meeting in March and went through line by line and was moving money so that we would have those raises and it would be a zero-sum budget. It was clear in that meeting that none of the priorities, which includes police raises, drainage, condemnations and the City Marshal, were going to be addressed by the administration. It was clear that the meeting was to show me what he was going to do,” said District 4 Councilwoman Davidson.

Two vetoes later from the mayor, and members of the council feel as if they are back at square one.

“This is a game. It is semantics. The judge said it is semantics. You can’t argue that my budget is improper and then veto making it proper by saying that an allocation needs to be removed from the improper budget.”

Catherine Davidson, Alexandria City Council, District 4

While this ongoing dispute continues, a growing concern is taking place at APD as the department is down nearly 50 officers. KALB recently obtained a pay study that was conducted for the department that showed that pay was a prime reason for officers leaving.

“Public safety is not a priority for this administration,” said Davidson. “It is clear at this point that he does not intend to give the police raises no matter how many times he says it.”

On Monday, KALB reported that the council reached out to have Trey Gist, a contract attorney, start working on the ordinance to finally finish this matter and hopefully get it on the council agenda next week for a vote. Davidson said that it could take longer as the administration wants to order a copy of the transcript from the hearing on Monday to review it first.

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