PORT ALLEN — The city of Port Allen finally closed the books on the protracted legal dispute between Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain and former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter in a $112,500 settlement reached after more than eight hours of closed-door negotiations Monday in the West Baton Rouge Parish courthouse.
“Sometimes, negotiations take a while,” said a smiling McCain as she walked out of the courthouse with her attorneys.
Monday was supposed to be the beginning of a two-day bench trial in McCain’s wrongful termination lawsuit against Slaughter, in her former capacity as the city’s top official, but state District Court Judge Alvin Batiste encouraged both sides to try to settle the matter outside of the courtroom.
The City Council, McCain and Slaughter spent the day in back-and-forth discussions with their respective attorneys until all parties agreed to the six-figure settlement around 5 p.m. Monday.
McCain’s wrongful termination lawsuit was about the final remnant hanging over City Hall in the wake of Slaughter’s 11-month tenure as mayor. She was recalled from office in November 2013.
The lawsuit has been an ongoing battle since February 2013 that stretched out over the course of a year through continuances and stacks of legal filings.
The legal battle between the two women began when Slaughter, only a month into her first term as mayor, tried to fire McCain in February 2013 over accounting deficiencies cited in an annual audit report for the city.
McCain reacted by filing suit against Slaughter and quickly got her job back through a judge’s order. That judge ruled the mayor lacked authority to dismiss the chief financial officer without City Council approval.
But tensions between the two city officials only intensified upon McCain’s return to work.
Slaughter, a black woman, on several occasions publicly accused McCain, a white woman, along with other white city officials, of being racist and working against her behind the scenes at City Hall.
About two months after regaining her job, McCain asked the court to hold Slaughter in contempt, alleging the mayor was continually interfering with her job.
In the interim, Slaughter made several executive decisions, such as stripping McCain of her banking privileges with the city, that McCain’s lawyers say made her job increasingly difficult.
Slaughter eventually was recalled from office. She made an attempt at reclaiming the position in a special election in April but lost to Richard Lee.
Slaughter, who attended Monday’s court proceedings, declined to comment.
Seth Dornier, one of McCain’s attorneys, said Slaughter is not out of the clear yet.
“As far as her official capacity, it’s done,” he said, hinting at the possibility McCain could sue Slaughter in her individual capacity.
The settlement will cost taxpayers approximately $83,500. The city’s insurer will make up the additional $29,000 owed to McCain.
“The biggest thing that happened today is getting this done and getting this chapter behind us,” Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Rivere said outside the courthouse. “We’ve been having a lot of positive things going on in the city lately and we want to keep moving in that direction.”
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