Court asked to rule on mayor’s veto
City Attorney Allan Durand has filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgement in 16th Judicial District Court, seeking a ruling on the legitimacy of Mayor Melinda Mitchell’s claimed veto power.
The question arose when Mitchell vetoed recent city council action that would reduce her position from full- to part-time. The measure passed by a 3-1 vote, with councilman Edmond Joseph the sole dissenter. Councilman Juma Johnson was absent.
The proposed change would reduce the mayor’s salary from $56,000 to $30,000 per year.
The position was a part-time job from the time of the charter’s adoption in 1898 until 1994. A return to that status will require approval from Governor John Bel Edwards.
Council members supporting the change have agreed to seek a judicial review of the mayor’s veto action.
Mitchell’s assertion relies on the inclusion of such powers in the Lawrason Act, which comes into effect only if the charter is silent on an issue to be decided.
The petition cites Section 3(1) of the city charter, which states that the mayor shall preside in the meetings, but “shall have no vote therein, except when there is a tie, in which case he shall have the deciding vote.”
Durand contends that this clear delineation of power, in which no mention of a veto is made, cannot be accurately described as “silence” on the issue.
His petition states “The word ‘veto’ does not appear in the charter ... nor is there any other language which pretends to grant a power equivalent to a veto over action approved by a majority of the council.”
There is no evidence that any past mayor has asserted veto power over a council decision in St. Martinville’s history.
Mitchell responded to that information by suggesting, “Maybe they never had a reason to.”
No date has been announced for the court hearing as of press time.