BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The metro council is forging ahead with a major policy change that could give anyone who qualifies the chance to fill a vacancy on the council. The move comes just months after a dust up among members when they were forced to fill Councilman Buddy Amoroso’s seat following his tragic death. His wife, Denise, who now holds the position, says at first, she was opposed to the idea largely because of how she says her family was treated earlier this year.
“Things that we were said to us and the things that we were accused of, like being racist and a liar two weeks after he was tragically struck down, there’s no words for it,” said Councilwoman Amoroso.
That contentious July meeting spiraled into name-calling on both sides and erupted into downright ugliness along party lines.
“The four of us on this side of this seat had endured hate from many sources and people that we even knew,” said Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis.
Councilwoman Amoroso wanted to be clear on the intent of the item Wednesday night and ensure no one else seeking to fill a vacancy faces something similar.
“I’ve thought about this particular item for a while,” she added.
Councilwoman Chauna Banks chose to clarify her position, explaining it’s something she has wanted for years, long before the most recent disagreement.
“We shouldn’t have been in it. You shouldn’t have been in it and your family shouldn’t have been in it, but that is part of what happened,” Banks said. “This is my third time bringing it. It had nothing to do with you.”
In a unanimous vote, the group did away with a long-standing tradition allowing spouses or other family members of former council members to automatically take over a position. Now, anyone can apply for a vacancy as long as they are at least 18-years-old, registered to vote and live in the appropriate district.
Many on the council agree it’s a change that’s long overdue and adds clarity to the process.
“I think there has to be a process in place and it has to be an orderly process,” said Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg.
“If at some point we don’t do this, it’s going to happen again,” said Collins-Lewis.
This is not the only change that could come to city government soon. A committee is working on other amendments right now as well. Of course, all of them would also have to be approved by the council.