INDEPENDENCE,LA (NBC33) — Independence Mayor Michael Ragusa remains in office after a resolution designed to call for Ragusa’s temporary resignation failed. The town's Board of Alderman held a special meeting Monday morning.
That special meeting was called on Friday after Mayor Ragusa was arrested on charges that include public intimidation, battery of a police officer and resisting arrest. It all stemmed from an incident with an Independence police officer back in August.
It was a close vote that kept Ragusa in office. Two members voted for the temporary leave of absence. Two members voted against. One member abstained. Some say the resolution wouldn't do enough to punish the mayor. Others say it's not the boards place to judge.
There was standing room only in Monday's meeting. Dozens of people packed the town hall to put in their opinion about what to do with Mayor Ragusa.
"Anytime you disrespect a police officer, the one that's protecting the city, how can people respect the mayor, " said resident Larry Holland.
"Why should he step down, because you are innocent until proven guilty,” said Brenda Liuzza. “He has not been convicted of anything."
Ragusa faces several charges from his alleged bad behavior during a traffic stop
Officer Jeannie Cruz filed her complaint against the mayor after she says he interfered in a traffic stop involving the mayor's son. The officer claims Ragusa used profanities as he slammed the door of her police unit. She says she had to physically kick the door open to get out.
Some say as an elected official the mayor should live up to higher standard of behavior. Others say he was just protecting his kid.
"I think any parent would do the same thing if they saw their child being pulled by a police officer,” said Liuzza. “They are going to stop. At that point I think the mayor wasn’t acting as mayor. He was acting as a parent."
Resident Bonnie Gulotta disagrees. She said, "He's actually like a deacon in a church. You know all eyes is on him at all times. He made his own actions instead of thinking ahead."
Calvin Batiste with the Independence Board of Alderman disagreed with the board’s decision to allow the mayor to keep his job.
"We as leaders have to set an example for our citizenry to live by,” said Batiste. “The message we sent this morning was it's ok to go out there and make bad choices. When you make bad choices there are consequences behind that."
Some people asking for the mayor to resign say the trouble with the mayor goes far beyond any legal matter.
Holland owns an area business, but He says he can’t open up for customers because of problems with the mayor.
"He harass people basically and if it's not his way it's the highway,” said Holland. “The citizens of Independence don't need that. "
Former business owner Brenda Liuzza disagrees. She says the mayor was a business ally. She said, “He has never the only thing he has tried to do is help me and my business. He supported me and came in. His family came in.”
"We have a huge deficit this fiscal year,” said Batiste. “We have more of a spending problem then a revenue problem. The problem is so severe lets ask the mayor to resign. "