We granted this writ to reconcile two provisions of the Lawrason Act, La. R.S. 33:321, et seq., to determine whether the Mayor of Pineville had the authority to vote on a resolution before the Pineville City Council (the "Council") where two members voted in favor of the resolution, two members voted against the resolution, and one member abstained. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, we reverse the judgment of the court of appeal and hold that under the provisions of the Lawrason Act, the Mayor did not have the authority to vote in that instance.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On June 26, 1998, the Council held a special meeting to entertain a resolution to adopt a three-year contract (the "Contract") between the City of Pineville and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3352 ("AFSCME Local 3352").
Following debate on the resolution, two aldermen voted to adopt the Contract, two aldermen voted against the adoption of the Contract, and Alderman George Hearn abstained. Mayor Fred Baden declared the vote a tie and issued the deciding vote in favor of the resolution adopting the Contract. Four days later, Mayor Baden and three of the aldermen left office and were replaced with newly elected officials. At a special meeting on July 21, 1998, the new Council voted three-to-two to rescind the resolution authorizing the Contract and to approve a resolution directing the city attorney to petition the court to set aside and vacate the Contract.
On August 13, 1999, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the City and against the AFSCME Local 3352 on a Petition for Declaratory Judgment voiding the Contract. The trial court held that the vote on the resolution authorizing the City to enter into the Contract did not conform to the requirements of La. R.S. 33:406(A)(2), which provides:
The trial court held that there was a conflict between La. R.S. 33:406(A)(2) and La. R.S. 33:405(A)(1), which provides that "[t]he mayor shall preside at all meetings of the board of aldermen, and in case there is an equal division, he shall give the deciding vote." The trial court held La. R.S. 33:405(A)(1) is general in nature and applies to voting on all matters including those pertaining to ordinances, resolutions, and simple motions, and that La. R.S. 33:406(A)(1)
The court of appeal reversed, finding that under La. R.S. 33:405(A)(1), the former mayor had the right to cast the deciding vote because there was an equal division. City of Pineville v. American Federation of State, County and Mun. Employees, AFL-CIO, Local 3352, 99-1644 (La.App. 3 Cir. 4/12/00), 761 So.2d 47. We granted the City's writ to determine the proper interpretation of La. R.S. 33:405(A)(1) and La. R.S. 33:406(A)(2). City of Pineville v. American Federation of State, County and Mun. Employees, AFL-CIO, Local 3352, 00-1983 (La.11/8/00), 773 So.2d 151.
The City of Pineville is a Lawrason Act municipality and as such is subject to the
As stated above, La. R.S. 33:405(A)(1) and La. R.S. 33:406(A)(2) pertain to the issue of voting on matters before the Council. La. R.S. 33:405(A)(1) gives the mayor the right to vote on Council matters "in case there is an equal division." However, the statute is unclear as to which matters the mayor may vote, nor does it specify whether it applies when there is an "equal division" of the members of the entire council, the members present, or the members voting on a particular matter. La. R.S. 33:406(A)(2) is very specific in that it applies only to resolutions and requires that all resolutions be approved by an "affirmative vote of a majority of the members of the board present at a meeting."
In determining the correct interpretation of these statutes, we must apply the following rules of statutory construction:
In re Succession of Boyter, 99-0761 (La.1/7/00), 756 So.2d 1122, 1128-29. In addition, as stated by the trial court, rules of statutory construction provide that where two statutes deal with the same subject matter, they should be harmonized if possible; however, if there is a conflict, the statute specifically directed to the matter at issue must prevail as an exception to the statute more general in character. Le-Breton v. Rabito, 97-2221 (La.7/8/98), 714 So.2d 1226.
The interpretation of these statutes adopted by the court of appeal is that the
We hold that the proper interpretation of these statutes is that the mayor can only vote on resolutions if there is an equal division of board members present, i.e., four members are present and the vote is two-to-two. While La. R.S. 33:405(A)(1) gives the mayor the power to cast the deciding vote when the board is equally divided, La. R.S. 33:406(A)(2), the more specific statute setting out the number of votes required to pass a resolution, clearly indicates that whether there is an equal division must be determined by looking to the number of board members present, rather than the number of board members voting. Here, the mayor could not vote on this resolution because there were five members present, even though one abstained. In short, the abstention in this instance had the same effect as a "no" vote. Because all five members were present and there were only two votes in favor of the resolution, there was not "an affirmative vote of a majority of the members of the board present" as required by La. R.S. 33:406(A)(2). Had only four members of the board been present and two voted in favor of the resolution and two voted against it, the mayor could have cast the deciding vote on the resolution.
In a Lawrason Act municipality, the mayor may vote on a resolution when there is an equal division of votes among the members of the board who are present, provided of course that there is a quorum. In this case, where there were five members present, and the vote was two in favor and two against with one member abstaining, the mayor had no authority to cast the deciding vote under La. R.S. 33:405(A)(1) and La. R.S. 33:406(A)(2.)
For the reasons stated herein, the judgment of the court of appeal is reversed and the trial court judgment is reinstated.
Our ruling today does not address whether or not a mayor in a Lawrason Act municipality may vote on an ordinance under La. R.S. 33:406(A)(1) when there is an equal division of votes among board members as that issue is not before us.