Amid the discussion last week of whether the all-new Livingston Parish Council should undo its predecessor’s legal fight with Parish President Layton Ricks over the legal bills of two former council members, one thing was clear:
Councilman Garry Talbert didn’t like the idea of signing a blank check.
In arguing for the mandamus lawsuit between the two government branches to be dismissed, Talbert said the parish already had spent about $46,000 on the council’s and president’s attorneys battling each other.
That doesn’t include the amount — undisclosed, uncapped and steadily rising — that the parish would owe the attorney representing the two former council members in a defamation suit over comments they made during a 2013 TV news interview.
Talbert, a business owner, said people evaluate their risks and rewards — and what they would be willing to settle for — differently when they have to foot the costs of their own decisions.
“If I send my kid to the store with his money, he’s going to get one thing. If I send him to the store with my money, he’s going to get a whole shopping cart full,” Talbert said, as the audience erupted in laughter.
Talbert said he was not trying to dictate which course of action the two former council member,s Marshall Harris and Cindy Wale Franz, choose. Nor was he interested in setting a precedent that no councilman sued personally could count on reimbursement from the parish for his legal defense.
“I’m liable to run my mouth, and I’m liable to get sued too,” Talbert said. “I’m not trying to be ugly about it. That’s a possibility.”
But if that happens, Talbert said he’d defend himself out of his own pocket and, only after winning the case, seek reimbursement from the parish.
Advocate staff writer Heidi Kinchen contributed to this report.