When Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature tried last spring to clip the wings of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East for filing suit against scores of energy companies, we heard from many New Orleanians concerned about the threat to the independence of an agency vital to the city’s recovery. We joined in that chorus, arguing on this page that the dispute over the lawsuit should not become an excuse to diminish the authority’s freedom.
Now the agency’s independence is under attack again, not from the Republican governor and legislators loyal to the oil industry, but from the authority’s own attorneys.
The board voted Monday to take the legal fight to an appeals court after the suit was rejected by U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown. But the board’s attorney Gladstone Jones has made clear that he will send over a bill for “a couple million dollars” if the agency gives up, because his deal includes a poison pill that leaves the board on the hook for hourly legal fees and costs if it withdraws from the fight. The deal in effect means the lawyer, not the client, is calling the shots.
Many of those who attacked Jindal and the Legislature seem not to be troubled by this incursion on the board’s prerogatives. But if the lawyers believe in the independence of their client, they should voluntarily give up the poison pill.