For Immediate Release05/28/2013
Civic Activist, Citizens Group File Lawsuit Against The City of Kenner
And Mayor Mike Yenni To Stop Bond Debt Sale
Walt Bennetti, a resident of Kenner, individually and in his position as President of Citizens For a Better Kenner, filed a lawsuit in the 24th JDC to stop the City of Kenner from implementing plans to issue $47 Million in new debt through the sale of bonds.
The lawsuit names The City of Kenner, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni and the Kenner City Council as defendants. Mayor Yenni proposed the debt issuance to fund beautification and aesthetic projects and the Kenner City Council approved an ordinance by a 6-1 vote approving the debt issuance.
The suit contends that “Approving an ordinance which obligates tax payers to repay bonds (both refinanced debt and new money borrowed) cannot be done by a vote of the Council. In fact, the Kenner City Charter specifically states in Section 6.12 that all proposals for the issuance of revenue bonds must be approved by a majority vote of the qualified electors of the City voting in a referendum called for such purpose.”
“The Council and Yenni have violated our Kenner City Charter by failing to bring this matter to a vote of qualified electors, opting instead to borrow millions of dollars that the tax payers will ultimately have to pay back without giving us a voice in the decision as the Charter obligates them to do.”
At Kenner City Council meetings and at the State Bond Commission meeting that also voted on the debt issuance, Bennetti repeatedly asserted that the people of Kenner had the right to determine whether or not debt was issued and that a voter referendum was necessary.
“This lawsuit isn’t about Mayor Yenni’s 2030 Plan, beautification or Kenner not moving forward,” Bennetti said. “This lawsuit is about preserving the people’s voice and their Charter-mandated right to inclusion in the process.”
“The Charter gives the people of Kenner the right to a voter referendum to decide whether or not they want to issue new debt and hamstring Kenner’s finances, future Mayors and Councilmembers for the next 20 years. Mayor Yenni and a handful of elected officials are not entitled to take that right away from the people.”
“The repayment of these bonds will tie-up millions of tax dollars and cost taxpayers over $17 Million in interest alone. Those dollars could be used for Police and Fire Protection, infrastructure or other projects that Kenner residents might deem more vital than beautification and interest payments.”
“In addition, the City and Mayor Yenni have not exhausted every available funding source before attempting to issue more debt. There are other options available besides attempting to double property taxes or increasing the city’s debt by 34%.”
The lawsuit requests that injunctions, both preliminary and permanent, are issued ordering the defendants to cease and desist in their efforts to enforce City of Kenner Ordinance Number 10.572 which approved the debt issuance and seeks to invalidate that ordinance. The suit also asks that, before the Council approves a new ordinance authorizing the issuance of debt, that a voter referendum occur.