Attorneys fighting attorneys over attorneys: That’s the state of St. Tammany Parish politics at the moment.
Last week, District Attorney Warren Montgomery filed suit against the parish president and council over who should control the parish government’s legal representation.
President Pat Brister and a majority of the St. Tammany Parish Council think their attorneys should report to them. Montgomery says the parish’s home rule charter puts him in charge of St. Tammany’s legal affairs and parish government is in effect a client of his office.
Monday night, the council approved two resolutions. One grants Brister authority to hire lawyers to fight Montgomery’s lawsuit; the other grants the same authority to the council.
Both already have picked their attorneys. Brister will appoint Richard Stanley, and the council will appoint Ross Lagarde and William Faustermann to represent it.
Councilman Jake Groby opposed the first resolution. He and Maureen O’Brien abstained from voting on the second. Councilman Red Thompson was absent.
A budget amendment to pay those attorneys has yet to be prepared or passed by the council. The attorneys will be paid either $175 or $225 per hour, depending on their experience, according to Council Administrator Don Henderson.
Monday’s action was no surprise. Tensions between Montgomery and the parish government over its legal representation have been simmering almost since he took office at the start of last year.
Later in 2015, the council put a charter amendment before voters that would have permitted the council to hire its own attorneys and removed them from the district attorney’s control entirely. Montgomery opposed the amendment, and it was rejected by a wide margin.
Subsequently, representatives from Montgomery’s office and parish government met to try to resolve their differences, but the talks broke down in early March.
Montgomery then filed his suit, which was greeted with anger by parish officials.
No date for a hearing on the suit has been set.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.