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Slaughter’s legal fees haunt city

Written by Emily Bell on . Posted in Local

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The legal battles and legal fees continue for the city of Port Allen.

A hearing for McCain v. Slaughter, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 29, was postponed and has yet to be rescheduled.

CFO Audrey McCain, who filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against former mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter in Feb. 2013, has paid for her own legal representation in the case.

However, she said Tuesday that the city is still receiving bills from Slaughter’s former representation, Phelps Dunbar law firm.

McCain said the legal fees exceed $51,000.

The Port Allen city council already added a total of $35,000 to the 2013-2014 city budgets to pay for the Nov. 16 recall election which successfully recalled Slaughter and to pay for the upcoming special election to elect a new mayor in April.

McCain sued Slaughter in her official capacity as mayor, but McCain said the council has not specifically appropriated money to pay Slaughter’s legal fees.

In fact, at the June 12 city council meeting, the council adopted a resolution 3-1-1 to deny funding for Slaughter’s legal expenses, which the resolution states were “not specifically authorized and approved by the city council.”

Additionally, on July 31, a judgment signed by 18th Judicial District Court Judge Alvin Batiste, Jr. prohibited Slaughter “from paying lawyers with funds belonging to the City of Port Allen…unless and until she has been granted the authority provided in Louisiana Revised Statute 33:386(C).”

That statute states that the mayor, pending city council approval, may appoint “an attorney at law for the municipality” – currently City Attorney Lance Joseph – to represent the mayor, city council, chief of police, tax collector and clerk “in actions against them in connection with and arising out of their functions as such officers, and other duties as prescribed by the mayor.”

Louisiana Revised Statute 33:386(C) also allows the city council to “employ counsel to represent its interest should the occasion require,” which they did while Slaughter was in office. On Sept. 11, city council members approved a resolution 3-2 to hire Smith Law Firm to represent the council at a rate of $250 an hour.

On Jan. 8, the city council also authorized Interim Mayor Lynn Robertson to hire Baton Rouge law firm Kean Miller “to provide assistance on an hourly basis with administrative personnel issues,” according to the agenda of the Jan. 8 city council meeting.

Slaughter, during her administration, maintained that the city was obligated to pay her legal fees because the case arose from actions she took in her official capacity as mayor. Phelps Dunbar law firm represented her early in the case but, by July 2, Baton Rouge attorney Ron Johnson represented her – in both McCain v. Slaughter and in the case three council members filed against her.

A Dec. 23 audit report recommended that the city council review all legal fees expended on behalf of Slaughter to “determine whether to pursue restitution from the [former] Mayor.”

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