Documenter name: Natalie McLendon

Agency holding meeting: City of Sulphur Home Rule Charter Commission

Date: January 23, 2023


The commission reviewed the full charter and heard comments about government transparency and resident ‘apathy.’

The Scene 

The City of Sulphur Home Rule Charter Commission working session was held at 1551 East Napoleon Street in Sulphur, in a portable building. Sulphur Mayor Mike Danahey, Councilwoman Dru Ellender, and City Attorney Cade Cole were in the audience. There were two members of the public present and one of them, concerned resident Sheila Broussard, recorded the meeting. KPLC was in attendance. The meeting came to order at approximately 5:30 p.m and went on for two hours.


The Home Rule Charter was originally passed by the residents of Sulphur in 1984, according to Mayor Danahey. The members of this commission were appointed at the November city council meeting to update the Home Rule Charter to coincide with current Louisiana law.

The commissioners are Danny DiPetta, Donna Emmons, Gena Granger, Sid Rosteet, Carla Sigler, Justin Sittig, and Becky Venissat (absent). The commission secretary is Arlene Blanchard. The commission is subject to open meetings law and will report their advised revisions to Sulphur City Council. 


The minutes from the previous meeting were approved. The agenda was approved without any changes. The Home Rule Charter can be accessed here

Proposed Changes to the Charter

Please note that the subject headings in this section are as they appear within the proposed changes to the charter. Only notable changes to the charter and/or surrounding discussion are included. For all other changes, see the commission’s working document

Article 4. Administration. 

4-02. Legal Department

B. Commissioner Sigler says the city attorney needs to be someone that the mayor appoints.

Commissioner Sittig asks if approval by the council needs to be unanimous. Secretary Blanchard says the majority of the membership must approve or disapprove. Sigler says this could be a particular issue and asks Danahey, who says this is the norm; the mayor does appoint the legal counsel for the city and the appointment is approved by the council. Danahey advises that the commission can add that language to that effect, and the city attorney will act as the council’s attorney as well. 

Commissioner Rosteet says it would be no different than representing a corporation and if the board of directors does not agree, they can disapprove of the appointment. 

No language was added to this section. Language was removed that requires the city attorney to have a law practice in the city of Sulphur.

4-04. Public Works Department

A. Omit “civil” from “engineer” in the requirements for the director of public works. Chairman DiPetta says he will consult his godson, who is an engineer, to see if “civil” should remain.

A member of the public asks why “civil engineering” was originally listed in the charter. Sigler says that engineering has grown since then and any one engineer could be more versed in a host of issues. Blanchard confirms that the public works director is also the land use director.

4-05. Personnel System – this entire section will now go under the Human Resources section, so it was deleted.

4-08. Department of Human Resources 

At this point, the council renumbered the charter because 4-05 was deleted.

Article 5. Financial Procedures

5-04. Amendments to Operating Budget

C. Reduction of Appropriations

This section reads: 

“If at any time during the fiscal year it appears to the mayor that the revenues available will be insufficient to meet the amount appropriated, the mayor shall report to the council without delay, indicating the estimated amount of the deficit, any remedial action taken and recommendations as to any other steps to be taken. The council shall then take such further action as it deems necessary to prevent a deficit.” 

Language will be added to say “and if it fails to adopt a plan to eliminate the deficit the Mayor shall instruct department heads to take actions needed to resolve the deficit.”

After the motion carries to add the language, Sittig asks what “without delay” means, and Sigler says that is a lawyer’s interpretation. City Attorney Cole says it has been used, and that the finance director would bring proposed budget amendments before the council at the next meeting unless it was a “dire emergency.” There are still rules in the local budget act that, unless they are in conflict with this, they have to comply with. If needed, there would be a special meeting. 

Danahey says that this happened in 2022. The hurricanes affected the budget as far as what expenditures and revenues were, and were out of compliance on the revenue side, so they made an amendment to the budget. 

Article 6. Initiative, Referendum, Recall, and Removal by Suit

6-01. Initiative and Referendum

Ms. Broussard asks if the commission will read through each paragraph since they said it was very important for the public. Cole says “maybe the issue is this, the city of Sulphur had a very progressive, forward-thinking, direct democracy set of options which do not exist in state law.” Cole adds that this section was used years ago for a hazardous waste facility that the council wanted and the citizens did not. Residents gathered enough signatures and the facility was banned. It was also used to ban red light cameras in Sulphur.

6-02. Recall

A. Broussard comments, “the state law says that 30% of the electorate has to petition to do a recall.” She wants more information on this. DiPetta says he would like to take it under advisement and Sigler rescinded the motion to accept so that she can do further research on this topic.

Article 7. General Provisions

7-03. Amending or Repealing the Charter

Broussard comments that when she contacted the city for a petition, the city instructed her that they would follow what was in the charter. She says there was nothing that she could find in the charter that had to do with her issue except 7-03.

Cole advises that Broussard is referring to the petition to elect a charter commission, but this section relates to a proposal for a specific charter amendment by petition, which are two different things.

7-06. Boards and Commissions

Sittig asks if the council can remove a board member by action. Sigler says she supposes that they can remove that authority. Cole says it is not commonly done. 

Broussard adds public comment, stating that she and others would like these and other open meetings to be recorded electronically by the city. In addition, she believes that this should be added to the home rule charter. Sigler responds that, “I think there was some proposed language that we had come up with too that we were gonna try to revisit to make it all consistent with regard to that.”

Sigler says she would like to see a proposal and they may already have Broussard’s and the commission has discussed it.

DiPetta begins to explain the ways that one may be notified about upcoming public meetings. He adds, We also have something called the telephone. If you have any questions concerning when this meeting is and anything about this meeting, you can call the city of Sulphur.” 

Commissioner Granger adds, “not to be ugly, but at some point in time, if you’re a parent of a child of a middle school, it is your responsibility as the child’s parent to find out what is going on at that school.”  

Broussard comments that there are about 10,000 people who are notified through the city’s push notification system and suggests this as a way to get people informed about these meetings. DiPetta says they are currently looking at that. He adds, “I just want to make it very clear that we are not trying to hide anything. I want to make that clear to the public, to you, and anyone else in this room…We are not trying to hide these meetings. Okay? Do we understand that?”

Broussard disagrees, stating that not using the notification system before these meetings was a mistake. DiPetta says they cannot fix what happened before, but they are trying to change the document to make Sulphur a better place.

Sittig says he agrees that it falls on personal accountability. As far as the language of the charter, it should be as generic as possible, and he does not know if he would add that because the council can add an ordinance for that. That can also be a policy set by the administration on how they want to notify the public. One member of the public lamented the small turnout for the home rule charter commission meeting and wished that there could be at least 10-12 people who are interested in attending. 

Rosteet makes the following statement:

“You’re going to have a core number of people who participate and that’s it. All the people that you have talked to, they didn’t come out. That’s part of the public and that’s unfortunate. You care enough, and we care enough. I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, Ms. Broussard. The thing is, of all the people you talked to about this, they didn’t come. They’re not showing up. You’re very passionate about this and that’s a good thing. It’s hard to get that response, to get that activism out there to get them to participate. This is civics 101. That’s what we’re doing and I think it’s admirable what you’re doing, but I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of a response.”

Dipetta says every person on the commission lets people know about the meetings. 

Councilwoman Dru Ellender stands up and says she has something to say. She says that the city used to have a broadcasting system, and had so many messages going out that people dropped out of the system. Ellender adds that she has been at this for a long time, and then makes the following statement:

“I went to every house in my district four different times and people still didn’t show up to vote. They knew because I said, you have to go vote. Because I said you have to vote, you can’t guarantee that I’m gonna win if you don’t go vote. And people did not go vote. There is an apathy here, and it’s not the city’s problem. I mean, I’m sorry, don’t take that, no, you’re filming me and you can use this against me. 

But you have to determine at some point, and negativity that says we’re trying to hide it from the public does not get the people out. Saying that the mayor’s trying to hide from the public does not get the people out. And he’s not. He’s given every avenue for people to get where they’re going. 

It’s just an apathy and I just pray that people get on the bandwagon. Because we’re going to — in a handbasket. It trickles down. You know what I’m saying? It’s not anybody’s fault that people aren’t here. There’s just not an interest anymore, or they don’t want to get in an argument. They don’t want to confront. You know, it’s like, let’s work together as our city and let’s get this going.”

Cole says, “to close the loop on it, I think her point was, you have to be careful because there was a time when the city did things like the notifications. It saw that people were dropping off, and when you need to reach people in an emergency like a gas leak or road closure or whatever, you don’t have them if they dropped off. If you put something in the charter that says you must do ‘x’, and then you find out something like that later, it is almost impossible to fix the problem. You may not cause any civic engagement, but you get people that are mad that they get three notifications a month and so, you have to figure out how to balance that, like everything else.”

Open discussion with commissioners

Sigler says she has a few changes and suggestions for the charter that she will justify with legal writing and check on recall language, and have it sent to the rest of the commission by February 9th. 

DiPetta thanks everyone at the table, especially Blanchard. He thanks Danahey and Cole, as well as Ellender. Sigler says they are reading all of Broussard’s suggestions that Blanchard forwards to them. 

Dipetta makes the following statement:

“This committee has worked harder than a lot of the people can understand and there’s a lot of decisions and research and a lot of, for me, a lot of sleepless nights to make sure that the people, the citizens of Sulphur, can live with that and that their needs are met. This committee, you can tell, is moving in the same direction. There’s no hidden agenda. We are doing it for the best interest of the city of Sulphur and all of its residents. I just want to make that clear for anyone who’s listening to that.”


According to Cole, the home rule charter commission should be delivered to city council at the April 10 meeting. Approved changes will appear on the ballot for October’s election.

The commission will host a public input session on February 16, 2022 at 5:30 PM. Subsequent meetings will occur on the following dates:

  • March 16, Working session
  • March 27, Follow up working session
  • Additional special meetings may be scheduled on an as-needed basis

Follow-up questions

How will documents containing the proposed changes to the charter be made available to the public? 

Through a public records request, Southwest Louisiana Journal obtained the working document, which can be accessed here.

How can the public currently get their questions, comments, and/or concerns to the commission? 

Public input for changes to the Home Rule Charter can be addressed to Messages will be forwarded to all commissioners.

How can residents of Sulphur sign up for notifications from the city?

Sign up here.


Meeting Agenda

Official minutes from January 23 meeting

Official minutes from January 10 meeting

Read our notes from the January 10 meeting.

Read our notes from December’s meeting.

Sulphur Home Rule Charter

Sulphur Home Rule Charter proposed changes