LIVINGSTON — A state district judge ordered Livingston Parish President Mike Grimmer Friday to pay two firms for road-design work.
The Livingston Parish Council previously adopted a resolution instructing Grimmer to pay the $453,000 bill; but Grimmer, who said he never authorized the work, refused.
Friday afternoon, Judge Zoey Waguespack of 21st Judicial District Court ordered the parish president to pay Alvin Fairburn and Associates and McLin & Associates within 30 days.
Grimmer’s attorney, Harry “Skip” Phillips Jr., said he anticipates appealing the judge’s decision.
Julie Baxter, the firms’ attorney, told the judge that the parish’s home rule charter does not grant the parish president authority to veto Parish Council resolutions.
She said the contract was an agreement strictly between the council and the firms, and the parish president’s only duties were to sign the contract and to pay the bills.
Baxter said no legal vehicle exists to resolve the matter, except for the mandamus action brought by the firms.
A writ of mandamus issued by a court requires an official to take a specific action, such as paying the firms in this case.
Waguespack limited arguments to whether a mandamus ordering Grimmer to pay the bill was the proper proceeding in the case.
Phillips argued that the case should have been filed as a lawsuit, rather than a mandamus action, so that the details of the dispute could be heard.
He maintained that a mandamus “short-circuits the questions” that could be taken up in a civil suit.
“The elephant in the room is what is owed under the contract,” he said.
“There is no elephant in the room,” Baxter said, adding that Grimmer was “trying to shove an elephant through a door” but the elephant doesn’t fit.
Baxter said that if the firms sued the council and won, the council would just issue another resolution instructing the parish president to pay the bill and the case would be back before the court to decide whether the parish president has a right to effectively veto a council resolution.
The matter involves parish road overlay work, an issue that has long been a battleground between Grimmer and a majority of the council.
Alvin Fairburn and Associates and McLin & Associates said they did the engineering on a list of roads given to them by the council.
Grimmer said he didn’t give written authorization for the firms to plan $11.5 million in roadwork and the parish can afford to do only $3.5 million in roadwork this year.
He estimated the cost of the work done by the engineering firms for this year’s road overlay program is about $170,000.
That’s a “red herring,” according to the firms’ memorandum in support of their petition for writ of mandamus.
What is relevant is that the council authorized the contract, authorized the work, accepted the work and ordered the payment, the firms maintain in their memorandum to the court.