GONZALES — The legal fees may be steep, but the usually divided City Council came together Wednesday in agreeing to pay lawyer’s fees of $9,000 for one side of the council in a rezoning lawsuit.
The $1,000 in attorney fees for the other two council members and for the mayor in the same lawsuit was not taken up Wednesday.
And after the meeting, there was a short debate between a councilman targeted for recall and an organizer in that effort over the cost of copying the signed recall petitions.
The legal fees stem from a lawsuit against the city filed in mid-August by 23rd Judicial District Judge Alvin Turner and his wife over a zoning issue.
The city has hired two lawyers for the defense: one to represent Gary Lacombe, Timothy Vessel and Terance Irvin, the three councilmen who voted against the rezoning request, and another attorney to represent councilmen Kenny Matassa and Kirk Boudreaux, who voted for the request, as well as Mayor Barney Arceneaux.
The $9,000 in legal fees for the month of August was submitted earlier this month by New Orleans attorney Robert Barnett, the lawyer for Lacombe, Vessel and Irvin. The bill represents 51.7 hours of work, said Lacombe, who proposed the resolution.
As originally proposed, the resolution also would have approved the payment of all future invoices in the case, but Matassa amended the resolution so Barnett must bill the city on a monthly basis, to be reviewed by the council.
“I fully agree that the bills need to be reviewed monthly,” Lacombe said.
The council approved the amended resolution unanimously and also voted to approve Barnett’s taking 10 depositions for the case, which is scheduled for trial Oct. 16.
The invoice for Gonzales attorney Dwight Poirrier, who is representing Matassa, Boudreaux and Arceneaux, was $1,000 for the month of August, the mayor said.
The recall issue surfaced after the council meeting, when Chuck LeBlanc, chairman of the effort to unseat Lacombe and Vessel, showed Lacombe a stack of copies of the petition.
Lacombe filed for a writ of mandamus on Aug. 21 seeking the recall documents.
LeBlanc, citing state law, asked Lacombe for $50 to cover the cost of copying the signed petitions.
Lacombe didn’t say if he would pay for the copies, but, also citing state law, said repeatedly he would remain at the council chambers to review the papers.
The stalemate ended when the two men agreed to meet at a local business Thursday, and Lacombe would make his own copies.
SaveGonzales, the organization that initiated the recall effort, announced recently it gathered enough signatures needed to place the matter on the Dec. 6 ballot. The documents have not yet been filed with the Registar of Voters Office, which must verify the signatures.