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Mayor, councilman exchange words

Photo by Jesse Brooks

HEAD TO HEAD -- There's a tense moment about transparency between Mayor Bob Zabbia and Councilman Melvin Toomer during Monday's Ponchatoula City Council meeting. Toomer told the mayor he does not "do deals in the dark."

By Jesse Brooks crime@hammondstar.com

Tension was in the air for a moment between Mayor Bob Zabbia and Councilman Melvin Toomer near the conclusion of Monday's Ponchatoula City Council meeting.

At the time of the exchange, the council was discussing a resolution to sign a purchase agreement for police communications.

Over concerns of transparency, Toomer began to question where the city would get the funds. He also said not everyone in the council gets briefed about official city business.

Toomer said he was not briefed about the current film production happening in downtown. He said that most of these developments are things he did not oppose, but he wanted to know why he has been kept in the dark.

"Let me be sure, I've been waiting a long time to be able to say this," Zabbia responded. "When you became council member, you told me exactly that and I said that every Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. you could come in and I'd brief you to everything that's going on."

Zabbia said that Toomer stopped attending briefings after four weeks.

"Do you know why it lasted four weeks?" Toomer fired back. "Because I don't do business in the dark."

Toomer criticized the mayor and the council for not discussing enough city business on the public record and said it is a disservice to the taxpayers.

The two men seemed to reconcile to an extent later in the meeting after the mayor shared his message explaining the budget. Toomer thanked those who attended the meeting and wished the city a "Happy Father's Day."

Zabbia said the proposed budget totals $10.74 million, which is slightly under the past one, including such projects as the City Hall Annex, LA 22 sidewalk project and the LED lighting project.

"We have again presented a budget that is progressive yet extremely conservative," he said. "It is visionary yet realistic and one that will serve Ponchatoula's direction well for the fiscal year."

No opposition was expressed toward the presented budget, and the council approved it with a swift unanimous vote.