The New Roads City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday on an ordinance to prohibit the mayor’s use of security personnel and require greater accountability over his use of a city-owned vehicle.
Mayor Cornell Dukes immediately vetoed it.
The ordinance marked the latest attempt by Mayor Pro-Tem Theron Smith and council members Kurt Kellerman and Kirk “Clipper” White to put more oversight on Dukes’s use of a 2019 black GMC Yukon SUV.
Smith, Kellerman and White voted in favor of the measure. Council members Vernell Davis and Joy Nelson opposed it.
“Motion to adopt the ordinance is hereby vetoed,” Dukes said immediately after the vote.
“And you’re going to veto it one second later?” Kellerman asked.
Dukes moved forward on an override vote – which would require a four-fifths vote – but Smith said the move was premature.
Smith referred to Chapter A, Article 14 in the City Code of Ordinances, which gives the mayor 10 days to provide council members a written explanation for the veto.
Prior to the reading of the ordinance and subsequent vote, Dukes asked the council to table the proposal.
“I’ve taken on some efforts of unity and I’m not trying to discourage you not to proceed with this ordinance, but I just want to inform the council that I have taken some internal measures that are going to make this conversation moot,” he said.
“This is crossing some lines I’m not comfortable with – not because it’s illegal, but because of who I am.”
He said the SUV would remain parked in the City Hall parking lot.
Dukes said he may still use the vehicle occasionally.
“If I were to take some guests out, I’m going to pay for it because at this point,” he said. “I feel I’m being somewhat harassed for doing something I have a right to do.
“However, it’s just not worthy at this point to continue this … if it makes someone uncomfortable, even though I’m not breaking the law and I was within my rights, I’m ready to move on from this.
“I have much more I want to do for this city and we’re doing great things, and I want to remove this from our neck.
“It’s been so much of a nuisance and so much harassment with all of this … I’ve had enough,” he said.
Smith responded that the mayor’s accusation of harassment was directed at him.
“I could appreciate you taking the measures, but I do take exception to you saying you’re harassed because that falls to someone like me who took issue with the use of the truck, as well as the drivers and refusing to verify if it was city business,” he said.
White asked about the “internal measures,” but Dukes declined to elaborate.
After the meeting, Dukes said he would submit a statement on the internal measures he took.
White said after the meeting that the mayor’s actions were transparent.
“I think it shows more of his defiance. He’s just going to be defiant and that we’re not going to govern him. He tried to sweeten it prior and asked us not to go through with the ordinance because it was going to be a moot point.”
Kellerman sees no chance of an override.
He said he expects the same numbers to prevail on the override attempt.
“It’s dead on arrival,” Kellerman said. “Based on the vote to override it, we would need four votes to stop it.”
He said he believes the actions by the mayor send a bad message to the community.
“He keeps harping that he did nothing wrong and that it’s not illegal, but just because something isn’t illegal to do does it mean you should be doing it,” Kellerman said.
“The majority of the citizens of New Roads are against what he’s doing … I haven’t taken a poll, but I know the vast majority of people in New Roads don’t like it.”
The ordinance attempt came seven months after the council voted 3-1 for a resolution that asked the mayor to provide greater accountability of the expenses incurred when he uses the city vehicle.
Dukes, at the time, called the resolution “a political witch hunt.”