PORT ALLEN — The lingering effects of the wrongful termination lawsuit Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain filed against former mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter resurfaced Wednesday night when an attorney confronted the City Council about $52,000 in outstanding legal expenses he says the city owes his firm.
Dennis Blunt, a partner with Baton Rouge law firm Phelps Dunbar, asked the council to pay his firm $51,941 the city has owed since 2013. That money is for services he provided to the city after McCain filed the lawsuit against the mayor when Slaughter tried to fire her one month into her tenure as mayor. McCain was reinstated and Slaughter was later recalled from office.
Last month, a majority of the City Council approved a $112,500 settlement to McCain, who had gotten her job back less than a day after Slaughter tried to fire her. A judge ruled the mayor lacked authority to dismiss the chief financial officer without City Council approval.
Now Blunt says the city owes him for his legal representation on Slaughter’s behalf as mayor during the early run on the case.
“I was contacted by the former city attorney, Victor Woods, and was asked by him to join the case because of a potential conflict of interest,” Blunt said.
Blunt spoke of the beneficial business relationship he has shared with the city as a legal adviser and sometimes ad hoc attorney in legal matters since 2006.
“I provided you a whole lot of things I didn’t invoice you for,” he said. “I would hope that would merit payment.”
The council is set to vote on the matter at its regular meeting next week, but it’s not at all clear if Blunt will get the votes he needs on the five-member council to finally get paid.
During a meeting in March, three councilmen, R.J. Loupe, Hugh “Hootie” Riviere and Garry Hubble, declared they would not vote in favor of paying Phelps and Dunbar for those services.
However, the council has not offered any solutions regarding how the city should settle the matter.
Wednesday night, it appeared those councilmen had not changed their position.
Riviere’s only comments to Blunt were in reference to the ruling from a state district court judge in a separate lawsuit the three councilmen also filed against Slaughter while she was in office.
In July 2013, state District Judge Alvin Batiste granted the council members a preliminary injunction blocking Slaughter from using any more taxpayer money without City Council approval to pay outside attorneys.
“To me, that was automatically retroactive because that law is already on the books,” Riviere told Blunt. “His judgement was just an interpretation of that law.”
“Nothing I heard in your reading referenced a retroactive application of that action,” Blunt retorted.
Hubble referenced another state law restricting mayors from hiring a lawyer without legislative approval.
But Blunt said that was in reference to hiring a city attorney, not outside counsel.
“I think we should pay it,” Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence said. “That’s my personal opinion. We’ve paid for tons of other things.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.