A resolution authorizing $5,000 in travel expenses for Iberia Parish Council members to attend the Louisiana Police Jury Association’s 94th annual convention in New Orleans early next year was met with some skepticism before it passed at Wednesday night’s council meeting.
“I’m just going to encourage all of us to go,” Parish Councilman Paul Landry said. “It’s a good educational thing. It’s good bonding for the council. I don’t know if we have the $5,000 there but we can move a couple thousand and get to the $5,000. I think it’s a good way we can spend some money but not a lot.”
The resolution was designed so council members would have to pay the rest of their expenses once the appropriated $5,000 is used up during the trip. Some council members, however, felt that the money was too much given the parish’s fiscal situation.
Council Chairperson Natalie Broussard said the resolution was amended, with the original proposal putting up $1,557 in the travel budget for each attending council member. Instead, Broussard said the $5,000 basically would pay for registration and one night of lodging while in New Orleans.
“I do think it’s important to go, and some aren’t able to pay for it financially,” Broussard said. “I thought it split like this was reasonable, so I’m supporting the $5,000 for everybody.”
Councilman Warren Gachassin asked Treasurer Kimberly Segura how much the parish currently has in undedicated funds. When Segura responded that it was slightly less than $100,000, Gachassin said he couldn’t vote for the measure.
“We’re not at a good time where we should be funding these type of things,” Gachassin said. “It may not seem like a lot of money, but $5,000 is a lot of money when you only have $100,000. It’s just not fiscally responsible.”
“I have been to two of them and I paid for one,” Parish Councilman Brian Napier said. “But knowing the situation we’re in, it’s very hard for me to sit here and ask the taxpayers to pay my way to New Orleans. If i decide to go, whether the council pays or not I’m going to pay my own way. I want to see us better off financially.”
Landry said he thought the travel funds would allow for some council members who couldn’t otherwise afford the trip to be able to reap the benefits of the convention.
“I think it’d just be a couple dollars to help some people who would like to go,” Landry said. “I think we’re shirking our duties.”
The resolution passed with nine votes for and five votes against. Council members Ricky Gonsoulin, Joel Dugas and Chad Maturin voted against the measure, along with Gachassin and Napier.
Segura said after the vote the travel fund currently didn’t have enough money in it for the convention. Broussard said that $10,000 was taken out of the fund for a Region 3 meeting, but the leftover money will be put back in once that event is over.