OPELOUSAS — Zydeco musician Keith Frank has filed a civil lawsuit against St. Landry Parish government, alleging financial damages and breach of contract for failing to provide him with use of the Yambilee Building for several concerts beginning Sept. 5.
Frank claims in a suit filed in 27th Judicial District Court that he put down a deposit in September 2014 for a scheduled Yambilee Building performance this Saturday and for two subsequent appearances in November.
Frank will now appear at the annual Creole Renaissance Festival at the Rayne Civic Center instead of at the Yambilee Building, according to a press release Frank issued along with the lawsuit.
Frank also said in his lawsuit that he entered into another rental agreement with parish government for the Yambilee Building for performance dates in 2016 and 2017.
The lawsuit accuses parish government officials who are not identified of depositing Frank’s checks for use of the building before informing him in June that the rental agreement could not be honored due to other commitments.
Frank, the lawsuit says, was told in a meeting with parish president Bill Fontenot that the dates requested by Frank for the concerts could not be honored because the building’s availability was needed as a backup site for other events in case of inclement weather.
The suit states that Frank was told during his meeting with Fontenot that the Yambilee Building is going to be used this weekend for the annual Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival and the Step & Strut Trail Ride event later this year.
The suit says Frank was informed in a letter from parish government that his deposit money for the conflicting dates was being returned and that the dates he had requested for the musical shows were being canceled.
The suit says parish government failed to meet and discuss any resolution to damages Frank suffered for the canceled concert dates and additional expenses he has been forced to incur in shifting to the Rayne site.
Parish president Bill Fontenot said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he could not comment on specifics of Frank’s lawsuit since he had not seen it.
But Fontenot questioned Frank’s allegations, noting there was no contract signed by either the musician or parish government for use of the Yambilee Building.
Fontenot said Frank’s money for renting the Yambilee venue was accepted and later deposited by a parish employee but there was no contract ever signed.
“We were always committed to the Southwest (Zydeco) Foundation for its function over Labor Day weekend,” Fontenot said. “That resulted in a conflict with the date we allegedly signed. I know of no contract that exists that substantiates the dates (Frank) says were reserved.”
Fontenot said he sent a certified letter to Frank detailing the alleged conflict and offering him a refund on his deposits.
“He (Frank) later came to meet me in person at the office, and I gave him $1,500 or $500 for each of the events that were changed,” Fontenot said.
Fontenot said it is unusual for parish government, which operates the Yambilee Building on U.S. 190, to reserve dates as much as three years in advance.