City-parish Attorney Greg Logan said Friday an email telling Lafayette City Council Chairman Pat Lewis he has to pay the legal department in advance to gather and redact information about legal fees was sent in error.
"The council does not have to file a public records request," Logan said. "They do not have to pay. They are my client."
Logan was responding to a news release sent Friday afternoon by Lewis in response to an Oct. 28 email from Katy Mabry, an assistant city-parish attorney who works at Logan's law firm.
In the release, Lewis said he asked for the information via a public records request because other City Council members advised similar requests for invoices for legal fees had not been filled.
Logan, in an email sent Friday evening to Lewis, said he previously responded in an email to Councilperson Nanette Cook and council staff with the amount of the legal fees and said there were not other fees.
Mabry's email to Lewis' City Council account acknowledged receipt of his public records request for legal fees related to a special attorney the City Council hired in September to represent it in certain matters involving the budget and division of fees between the city and parish.
The City Council hired Batson because most felt like Logan and the assistant city-parish attorneys he hired were not and could not properly represent the City Council while at the same time representing the Parish Council and Mayor-President Josh Guillory, who prepared the budget and hired Logan, when the three disagreed on matters.
Lewis had requested an accounting of all legal fees related to the hiring of special counsel Lea Anne Batson, including a list of attorneys who worked on a lawsuit challenging her hiring, the amount paid to each attorney and the cost for city-parish attorneys "who performed research, forwarded letters, memos, emails, opinions, filed court papers, attended meetings, etc. related to this matter."
Logan sued Batson, arguing she was not properly hired and undercut his authority as the city-parish attorney. Batson resigned when the city filed a legal request for her to personally pay legal fees in the case.
Mabry responded that the information Lewis requested will have to be gathered from various Lafayette Consolidated Government sources and require the compilation of information, which public bodies are not required to do under the Louisiana Public Records Act.
The gathering of information, segregation of material and removal of protected information, she wrote, "will be burdensome and expensive."
Mabry added, "You will be expected to pay in advance for retrieving, segregating and redacting such records."
Logan said Friday that Mabry's reply was a standard reply to public records requests such as this and should not have been sent to the City Council chairman.
The City Council, Lewis wrote, has a fiduciary responsibility to city taxpayers and oversight over the budget, including the legal department's budget. The legal department, he said, appears to have paid out almost $2.6 million to attorneys in the first 11 months of the 2019-20 fiscal year when the budget shows only $2 million was appropriated for legal fees across all departments, and 80% of the appropriations are city tax dollars.
"This fact, coupled with your resistance to a simple question from a council member about your budget makes me feel that I have a duty to get to the bottom of this situation," Lewis wrote.
It should be noted that Guillory and his administration took office in January using a budget prepared by his predecessor and the previous city-parish council.
In his Friday letter, Lewis requested a complete accounting of all legal fees starting with the 2018-2019 budget through today, including a record of the date and amount of every payment, the recipient of those funds and the purposes of the payment, including the case name or other identifying information regarding the subject of the payment.
He also requested a list of instances when the legal department charged someone in the public a fee for information provided via a public records request.