INDEPENDENCE, La. -- The mayor of Independence does not have to answer to the town Board of Aldermen after his arrest last week.
Mike Ragusa’s arrest is tied to an alleged altercation with a town police officer during a traffic stop of his son in August. Word of his three criminal charges spread fast to those who run the town with him, and the Board of Aldermen took steps to officially respond to it Monday morning.
The board debated whether to pass a resolution asking the mayor to resign or to just take a leave of absence.
“I feel like if we ask the mayor to resign, we're saying he's guilty," said Alderman Angelo Mannino.
"I don't think it's fair to the taxpayers to pay someone to take a vacation,” said Alderman Calvin Batiste.
Alderman Jimmy Gregory said, “As of right now, I will have no part of this resolution, guys."
The mayor told Eyewitness News over the weekend he would not resign, step aside or take a leave of absence. Ragusa was not in attendance Monday and had no comment other than he always has the town and the town's people in mind.
But the town's people had plenty on their minds.
"I'm not saying he's not a good man, but he is not a good leader for the Town of Independence," said former business owner Larry Holland.
"You wanting this man to step down, he is good for this town,” said resident Jeanette Patanella, “He has done nothing wrong until he is proven guilty."
The board failed to pass a resolution for resignation, then failed again on the motion for a leave of absence, so the status quo remains.
"The message we're sending is, it's alright to get out there and make bad choices,” said Batiste, “When you make bad choices, there are consequences behind it."
Mayor Pro Tem Larry Cardaronella said, "I just hope he realizes we're not against him, we're for him, but we want him to understand and keep a level head."
The board hopes now everyone returns their focus to the town’s real issue, the budget. And that will take center stage again Wednesday night at a special meeting of the parish’s fire district board, which shares control over the fire department.
Ragusa is due in court at the end of next month on his arrest.