A Baton Rouge judge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit that James Wayne Sr., the fired Capital Area Legal Services Corp. executive director, filed against the nonprofit legal aid group.
Wayne and his attorney, Wade Shows, promised to appeal state District Judge Tim Kelley’s decision and to file a separate suit against the agency for breach of contract.
“They never had cause’’ to fire me, Wayne said after Tuesday’s court hearing.
Wayne was put on paid administrative leave in October after the Office of Inspector General for the Legal Services Corp., in Washington, D.C., released a report in September questioning nearly $320,000 in agency spending.
The questioned spending included more than $11,400 for Wayne’s meals at the private Camelot Club and restaurants in the city, and $78,000 for his leased Toyota Camry and fuel. Wayne denies any wrongdoing.
The Capital Area Legal Services Corp. board fired him Jan. 11.
Wayne sued the board in February, claiming his termination was illegal because the vote was taken in executive session.
The board fired him again March 31, and Wayne sued again in April on grounds that some board members voted by phone in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law.
Kelley ruled Tuesday that the board’s March 31 action was valid, and the agency is not a public body within the meaning of the Open Meetings Law.
Capital Area Legal Services Corp. attorney Martin Golden had argued it is a private corporation whose board members are volunteers, not public officials.
Shows countered the agency receives local, state and federal funding and performs a public function.
Capital Area Legal Services Corp., with headquarters in Baton Rouge, serves 12 parishes in southeast Louisiana. It recently lost a $1.6 million annual federal grant to Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corp., of New Orleans, which serves 10 parishes, It will serve 22 parishes with the addition of the dozen from the Capital Area Legal Services Corp.
Capital Area Legal Services Corp. board Chairman Preston Castille has said the loss of the Legal Services Corp. grant will likely mark the end of the 53-year-old agency, which provides free civil legal services to low-income residents.