UPDATE, 4:55 p.m. The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that Mayor Mitch Landrieu can remain free from house arrest while he appeal the lower court contempt ruling.
UPDATE 3:40 p.m.: WWL-TV reports the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Landrieu’s request to stay the order that he be put under house arrest. No ruling yet by the state Supreme Court.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration has filed emergency appeals with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court in a last minute effort to keep the mayor from being put under house arrest this weekend for failing to resolve a back pay dispute with the city’s firefighters.
The appeals were filed early Friday afternoon, hours before Landrieu is required to go under house arrest at 5 p.m.
The city’s appeals attempt to overturn Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese’s order finding the city in contempt of court last week for failing, after a month of mediation, to come up with a plan to pay firefighters $75 million they are owed in back pay and another $67 million in interest. Reese gave Landrieu until today resolve the case, which began in 1979, or else find himself under house arrest every weekend from 5 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Sunday until an agreement is reached.
The city put forward two plans during those mediations, one which would only pay a fraction of what was owed and another that would stretch the payment of $75 million over 30 years. Both those proposals were rejected by the firefighters and by Reese.
The city has already asked Reese to put a hold on his ruling while it appeals the decision.
Reese denied a request by the city to stay his order of house arrest Friday afternoon, but in a court filing said he was reviewing briefs by both sides on whether his order should be put on hold while appeals are exhausted.
In their filings with the appeals court and Supreme Court on Friday, attorneys for the city are asking those courts to put the ruling on hold.
The filings argue that keeping the mayor confined to his home would be “detrimental to the interests of the city itself.”
“The mayor’s job is not a ‘9 to 5’ weekday position as many events, meetings and other important issues need to be addressed on weekends,” according to the filings. “Mayor Landrieu needs to personally be present as he cannot effectively address from his home many issues that may arise during the weekend.”
The filing also blasts Reese’s order as one-sided, noting that the firefighters and their union officials were not given a similar ultimatum.
“The resolution of litigation is a two-way street,” according to the filings. “While the mayor endures home incarceration, there is no incentive on the part of the (firefighters union) to negotiate, in good faith, a resolution of this litigation.”
Further the filings argue the mayor does not have the power to pay the firefighters and that doing so is up to the City Council, which has been briefed on the issue but not taken any action on any of the administration’s proposals.
In a response filed with the appeals courts Friday afternoon, attorneys for the firefighters pushed back against that claim, pointing to a radio ad Landrieu put out on Wednesday that argues the judgments the administration is facing would bankrupt the city as a sign that the administration is unwilling, rather than unable, to pay the judgment.
Pointing to the city’s $33 million fund balance and $45 million settlement with BP over effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the brief argues the city has the money available to pay the claims.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.