Council meeting tonight could change face in mayor’s office

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Members of the Minden City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. today (Tuesday, July 5) using an agenda already set by late Mayor Terry Gardner, which could change.

That agenda has no item addressing an interim mayor to serve until fall elections and must be amended if an appointment is to be made.

City attorney Jimbo Yocom said he has requested the council allow him to open the meeting in order to remove any question about violation of meeting laws.

It requires a unanimous vote by the council to amend an agenda.

“They (council members) will have to vote to amend the agenda to include electing a mayor pro tem and then appointing a new mayor,” Yocom said. 

Not only has the city been without a mayor since Gardner’s death last week, but Minden has been without a mayor pro tem since January 1, 2022.

Traditionally, since the early 1990s, mayor pro tem has been elected to serve one year, and each year the council has elected one of their own to act as mayor pro tem for one year. 

In accordance with that tradition, District B Councilwoman Terika Williams-Walker was elected to serve the year 2021. However, in January 2022, the council failed to appoint the mayor pro tem due to a disagreement on whom should serve.

Some council members may have thought Walker would remain as mayor pro tem if another was not elected and possibly become mayor when Gardner died. By law, neither is the case.

If neither a mayor pro tem nor interim mayor is appointed tonight, business is put on hold for the City of Minden.

A legal opinion letter to the council from Yocom, obtained by Webster Parish Journal from an anonymous source, instructed:

“The council cannot call or hold another meeting until one or the other position is filled without violating the open meetings law and potentially making the meetings and any decisions null and void.”

The Secretary of State has already declared the vacancy of mayor of Minden. 

If one is not appointed tonight, the governor may step in and appoint someone, using his emergency powers to do it sooner rather than later and avoid a shut-down.

If the council appoints one of their own to be interim mayor, that council member must resign from their present position, prior to accepting the nomination, or violate the “dual-office holding” statute.

And while Williams-Walker can be nominated and elected mayor pro tem for the remainder of the year, she cannot vote for herself to the interim mayor’s seat.

The letter states if she – or any other councilperson – were to vote for themselves:

“… it would be an ethical violation due to economic gain,” and that’s what this would be since the mayor’s salary is significantly more than that of a councilperson.”

Yocom said these opinions are just that … opinions. However, he has spoken with multiple other attorneys with municipal experience who agree with him.

Items on today’s agenda include the following:

  • Adopt minutes of the June 6, 2022 council meeting (regular session);
  • Condemned property;
  • Minden Planning Commission Reappointment;
  • A resolution for Signatory Power;
  • A resolution for Cooperative Endeavor Agreement between Minden Economic Development District 1 and McClung’s Service Station Inc.;
  • Approve new employee positions and job descriptions;
  • Authorize the mayor to retain the services of a consulting firm to evaluate employee salaries;
  • May, 2022 budget/financial report; and
  • May, 2022 Police report.

The public is invited to attend.