Embattled former contractor Corey delaHoussaye has agreed to settle a pair of lawsuits against Livingston Parish for the council’s offered amount of $325,000, but lawyers for the two sides disagree on what steps are required before the parish can cut the check.
Parish legal adviser Christopher Moody advised delaHoussaye’s attorney that, under state law, the deal first must be approved by District Attorney Scott Perrilloux and then the Parish Council must formally appropriate the money.
Jill Craft, who represents the contractor, said Thursday those requirements raise some concern, considering Perrilloux is prosecuting delaHoussaye for allegedly padding the bills this settlement would cover. Craft also contends the parish has settled previous legal disputes with other parties without specifically appropriating the funds to do so.
The deal, if it goes through, would settle delaHoussaye’s federal civil rights case, in which he has claimed the parish’s termination of his company’s contract for wetlands mitigation work after Hurricane Gustav was in retaliation for his reporting alleged illegal cleanup work by the parish’s other storm contractors. The deal also would settle a related state court case, in which delaHoussaye seeks over $379,000 in payment for his company’s final invoice.
Craft had requested the settlement check to be cut by Monday, when delaHoussaye is scheduled to be in criminal court for a hearing on his motions to quash the charges against him and to suppress the evidence underlying the district attorney’s case.
Craft said Thursday she wanted the settlement finalized by next week because of certain deadlines approaching in delaHoussaye’s state and federal civil cases against the parish.
Perrilloux said any settlement reached in the civil cases will have no effect on his intent to move forward with the criminal case against delaHoussaye. Moody also underscored that the criminal charges would remain a separate matter, telling Craft in an email Thursday that he could not agree to any settlement language that would affect the district attorney’s case.
Craft responded Friday by accusing Moody of trying to derail the settlement and “acting on behalf of the DA and trying to manipulate whatever criminal process is going on within the confines of a federal civil rights suit and a damages suit in state court.”
Moody denied those allegations, writing to Craft, “We are very willing to settle the case and pay the money. ... We are not trying to manipulate anything to do with the criminal case. The contrary is true.”
Reached by phone late Friday afternoon, Moody said he remained optimistic that the parish could finalize the settlement and that discussions were ongoing about the appropriate language for the deal.
Parish President Layton Ricks said he was still in discussions with Moody and Perrilloux regarding whether and when to sign a check over to delaHoussaye.
“The funds are available because it was a case of a check that had been stopped,” Ricks said Thursday. “But we’re still talking about the process of what has to happen first.”
Ricks added that he believed it was possible the check could be cut sometime next week.
Craft said the money for delaHoussaye’s payment was appropriated four years ago, when former Parish President Mike Grimmer cut a $379,000 check to delaHoussaye’s company, C-Del, for payment of its final invoice for the Gustav work. Ricks stopped payment on that check immediately after taking office in January 2012.
“Those funds were then direct(ed) to AFA (Alvin Fairburn & Associates) without appropriation,” Craft wrote to Moody on Thursday, referring to a $453,000 payment Ricks made to his former employer for road engineering work the same day he stopped payment on the C-Del check.
Craft said the parish also expeditiously settled the Dorian Gray case, which involved a Watson residential development, without a specific appropriation. That case was settled for $75,000 in 2013.
Craft said the law’s requirement for the district attorney, or his representative, to agree on the settlement cannot conflict with professional rules of conduct requiring attorneys to abide by their clients’ wishes.
“The council, as their client, wants to settle and has extended an offer, which has been accepted,” Craft said. “As lawyers, if our clients say settle, we are ethically obligated to settle.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen. Contact her by phone at (225) 336-6981.