Bay mayor aims to limit council’s interaction with city employees
By Cassandra Favre
Dec 6, 2013, 21:38
Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame on Tuesday said he wants city councilmen to go through him, rather than speaking directly with city employees.
The new protocol stemmed from a disagreement Ward Six Councilman Lonnie Falgout had with an un-named employee, which was addressed that night at the city council meeting.
"I would suggest that before you sit down and speak to one of those employees," Fillingame said, "that you go through me."
Falgout said that Fillingame had not been available at the time of the discussion.
"I can ask for documentation," Falgout said. "And I will."
Fillingame said that Falgout didn't have the authority.
"I know what your authority is and it's not without going through me," Fillingame said.
Falgout said that he asked the employee's permission to go into his office and was invited to sit.
Falgout read the attorney general opinion from the municipal code book which says that "individual council members can legally request information and advice from any city employee and if the employee refuses to voluntarily supply the information, the council as a whole can compel response; but no other entity of city government has any authority to limit or circumscribe council member's inquiry."
"I think that's common knowledge – the council can request, as a council, anything they want," Fillingame said, "but autonomously, the councilmen cannot work independently to make demands of anyone.
"The statute is very clear, councilmen themselves cannot get directly involved in directing employees in the daily operations of the city, that's my job, and I don't need any interference as it relates to that."
"The only authority we have," Ward Five Councilman Joey Boudin said, "is through the minutes of these meeting, but an individual councilman, if you don't think something is going right, you have the authority to question.
"We may be investigating your conduct or something in your office. We have the authority, individually, to question and if whomever it is, refuses to answer us, then we have to take it to the council as a whole, if we think it's important enough."
"Any interactions with the employees has to be done by way of the mayor," Fillingame said. "I ask you all to respect that."
Falgout also requested an executive session to discuss the employee's language.
"A couple of times lately," Fillingame said on Friday, "lines have been crossed. The council has every right to ask questions. If they question how and why or suggest the employee do something different without me being there, then a line has been crossed.
"This is to re-establish boundaries and how to engage employees, whom they very much have a right to speak to through me, that I have been selected by the people to manage," Fillingame said.
"The law says that there should be transparency in this administration," Falgout said. "We cannot tell the employees what to do, but we can request information.
"We're following the law."