After the shocking revelation that the previous City-Parish Council has allowed the Mayor-President to submit legislative ordinances in violation of the Home Rule Charter, the Mayor-President and members of the Councils were contacted by several citizens with complaints. Many were regarding the creation of several Economic Development Districts (EDD’s) with the “authority” to levy taxes without the consent of the voters.
In response, LCG’s legal department drafted a memorandum attempting to explain that they have haven’t broken any rules. Let’s take a look at the Memorandum, then compare it to the Charter to determine whether the memorandum omits facts and may actually contradict the Charter. The Memo will be quoted and paraphrased because it is three pages long, but you may read it in full here.
To begin, the Memorandum’s subject reference is the “Introduction of EDD Ordinances.” Assistant City-Parish Attorney, Mike Hebert, (who also happens to represent one of the people benefiting from the new taxing districts) responds to the suggestion that the EDD’s are invalid: “The contention is…that the ordinances in question needed to be “introduced” by a Council member, and instead, were improperly ‘introduced’ by the Mayor-President.”
He goes on to explain that local citizens have a “fundamental misunderstanding” of LCG’s “Home Rule Charter.” “The drafting and submission of an ordinance…was not ‘introduction’ … of an ordinance,” and “only the former City-Parish Council could have introduced an ordinance within the meaning of that term in the Charter.” Mr. Hebert then informs us that the “Old Charter” and “New Charter” would apply the same way.
- The Assistant City-Parish Attorney confirms that the documents for the EDD’s and corresponding cooperative endeavor agreements (CEA’s) provided to the council were ordinances;
- That the ordinances were originated and submitted by former Mayor-President Robideaux, consecutively numbered O-225-2019 through O-236-2019;
- The ordinances were scheduled on the Agenda by the Mayor-President and marked as “Introductory Ordinances” and;
- The minutes indicate Council debated the introduction and, ultimately, approved introduction of all EDD and CEA ordinances.
Mr. Hebert provides Section 2-12, subsections A and B, of the “Old Charter” to establish the requirements to introduce an ordinance, then simplifies the language and lists the requirements. He says, according to the meeting minutes, all the requirements were satisfied in the introduction of the EDD ordinances and the CEA ordinances.
He further informs us that the Charter does not require an actual vote of the Council to introduce an ordinance and states “there can be no question that each and every requirement of Section 2-12 of the Old Charter was satisfied in the introduction of these ordinances.”
The Assistant City-Parish Attorney further makes claims:
- “The charter is completely silent on who is permitted to author, sponsor, or submit a proposed ordinance.”
- “The authorship or origin of an ordinance is immaterial to the introduction of an ordinance.”
- “The rules of the Lafayette City-Parish Council specifically authorized the Mayor-President to submit ordinances to the council for consideration.”
There can be no serious question that the subject ordinances were properly introduced. The fact that the subject ordinances were authored and submitted by or on behalf of the Mayor-President rather than a Council member is completely immaterial to the question of whether the ordinances were properly introduced. Nothing in the Old Charter or the New Charter requires authorship, sponsorship, or submittal of an ordinance by a Council member, and such actions do not constitute “introduction” of an ordinance under Section 2-12…All requisites for the introduction of an ordinance were followed for the ordinances at issue, regardless of origin.
In essence, the memorandum says the Mayor-President may author and submit ordinances, so long as it’s done according to Sec. 2-12 “Ordinances in General,” subsection A and B. The Council has a rule that “authorizes” him to submit ordinances, and another rule for themselves to vote on the “introduction.” Got it?
“OLD” Home Rule Charter
These Economic Development Districts were created by the previous council, operating under the previous Home Rule Charter. Let’s compare the claims of the Assistant City-Parish Attorney with that Charter.
“The charter is completely silent on who is permitted to author, sponsor, or submit a proposed ordinance.”
“ARTICLE I. INCORPORATION, FORM OF GOVERNMENT,
Section 1-02. Form of Government.
“It shall consist of an elected Council which shall be called the Lafayette City-Parish Council and shall constitute the legislative branch of the government and an elected Mayor-President who shall be the Chief Executive Officer and head of the executive branch.”
“ARTICLE II. CITY-PARISH COUNCIL”
“Section 2-01. Composition, Qualifications and Election.
A. The legislative power of the City-Parish Government shall be vested in a Council”
“Section 2-11. Action Requiring an Ordinance.
A. An act of the Council having the force of law shall be by ordinance.”
To add an exclamation point to our claim that the Mayor-President is in no way supposed to author legislation, we give you Article IV, Section 4-17:
“Section 4-17. Administrative Reorganization.
A. The Mayor-President may propose to the Council the creation, change, alteration, consolidation or abolition of City-Parish departments, offices and agencies and/or the reallocation of the functions, powers, duties and responsibilities of such departments, offices or agencies, including those provided for in this charter.
B. Upon receipt of the Mayor-President’s proposed plan of reorganization, the presiding officer of the Council shall cause to be introduced an ordinance to implement the proposed reorganization plan. The ordinance shall follow the same procedure as provided in the section on “Ordinances in General” of this charter.”
“Even though the authorship or origin of an ordinance is immaterial to the introduction of an ordinance…”
See Response #1 and #3.
“…the rules of the Lafayette City-Parish Council specifically authorized the Mayor-President to submit ordinances to the council for consideration.”
“ARTICLE I. INCORPORATION, FORM OF GOVERNMENT, BOUNDARIES, POWERS.”
“Section 1-01. Home Rule Charter.
The Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government is…under a home rule charter and, subject to said charter, is authorized as hereinafter provided”
“Section 1-02. Form of Government.
It shall consist of an elected Council which shall be called the Lafayette City-Parish Council and shall constitute the legislative branch of the government and an elected Mayor-President who shall be the Chief Executive Officer and head of the executive branch.”
“Section 1-05. General Powers.
“the City-Parish Government… shall have and exercise such other powers… authority and functions not inconsistent with this charter… and more specifically… any function necessary, requisite or proper for the management of its affairs, not denied by this charter, or by general state law, or inconsistent with the constitution.”
“Section 1-06. Special Powers.
The City-Parish Government shall have the right, power and authority to pass all ordinances requisite or necessary… or proper for the management of its affairs… subject only to the limitation that the same shall not be inconsistent with the constitution or expressly denied by general law applicable to the City-Parish Government.”
The Mayor-President is the head of the executive branch and Chief Executive Officer. The Mayor-President is authorized to propose reorganization plans to the Council.
The City-Parish Council is the legislative branch. An act of legislation is called an “ordinance,” and the council cannot make rules that are inconsistent with or denied by the Charter.
When the Council receives a proposed plan of reorganization from the Mayor-President, the presiding officer of the Council shall introduce an ordinance. The Council is the only branch authorized by the Charter to legislate by ordinance and introduce the Mayor-President’s plan.
Got that, too?
Now that we have reviewed the Memorandum and the “Old” Home Rule Charter we must ask,
- Is the Charter silent on who is permitted to author, sponsor, or submit a proposed ordinance?
- Is the “authorship” or “origin” of an ordinance immaterial to the “Introduction” of an ordinance?
- Is the Mayor-President authorized by the Charter to legislate by ordinance and submit it for “introduction”?
- Is Council delegating its authority to the Mayor-President consistent with the enumerations within Article I and Article II of the Charter?
THE FINAL QUESTION:
If the EDD and CEA ordinances authored and submitted by the former Mayor-President are invalid, what corrective action could be taken?
“NEW” HOME RULE CHARTER
Our investigation has led us to Article VIII, Section 8-02, subsections B and D, of the “New Charter,” which applies to the current Lafayette Consolidated City-Parish Government and includes the Mayor-President, the City Council and the Parish Council:
“ARTICLE VIII. TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS”
“Section 8-02. Continuation of Actions.
B. All actions, ordinances, and administrative rules and regulations of Lafayette Parish and the City of Lafayette in force prior to the effective date of this charter shall, insofar as they are not inconsistent with this charter, remain in full force and effect until amended or repealed by the Council or until they expire by their own limitation.”
“D. All actions, ordinances, and administrative rules and regulations of the City of Lafayette, the Parish of Lafayette, and the City-Parish Government in force prior to January 6, 2020 shall, insofar as they are not inconsistent with this charter, remain in full force and effect until amended or repealed by the appropriate Council(s) having legislative power over the subject(s) of these matters, or until they expire by their own limitation.”
That would mean any ordinance (such as these EDD’s) or rule created inconsistent with the charter would not remain in full force and effect.
City Council members are bound to the Charter and are also the EDD’s official board members. If the EDD ordinances are not in full force and effect, the boards, and the decisions they make, may not be either.