Hearing set Wednesday on Livingston Council lawsuit against Ricks _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by LIBBY ISENHOWER -- Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks.

The Livingston Parish Council’s lawsuit against Parish President Layton Ricks will go to a hearing Wednesday, after a state court judge denied Ricks’ request for a 120-day continuance.

The council is seeking a court order requiring Ricks to pay the legal bills of two council members sued personally for comments they made to a reporter about Ricks’ former employer, Alvin Fairburn & Associates, and his current executive assistant, Mary Kistler.

Ricks’ attorney, Brian Abels, on Monday asked that Kistler be subpoenaed to testify Wednesday on the parish president’s behalf.

Abels had requested on Thursday that the hearing be delayed for 120 days to give him time to prepare and because, he said, the case could become moot.

Ricks said the parish and Fairburn are negotiating a settlement of all lawsuits between them and need additional time to structure that deal.

The council’s attorney, Harold Adkins, opposed the continuance, saying the potential settlement of the Fairburn cases was a separate issue from the council’s request for a writ of mandamus, which is a court order compelling a public official to act.

“One issue is the lawsuits between the council and the firm. Another is this, which has to do with whether the parish president should be obliged to comply with mandates of the council,” Adkins said Friday. “It’s in their charter. The Parish Council voted. They want Mr. Ricks to comply.”

The case is before Judge Brenda Ricks, no relation, of the 21st Judicial District Court in Livingston.

The Fairburn firm and Kistler sued Marshall Harris and Cindy Wale in March 2013, alleging the pair defamed them in a WBRZ-TV report that aired that month. The report claimed Kistler, the former council clerk, had changed the wording of a resolution to allow the firm to bill for road engineering work the council had not authorized.

The council has twice ordered Ricks to pay the bills, but he has refused, citing a state attorney general’s opinion that suggested withholding payment until a judgment is rendered in the case.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen.