Attorneys in the lawsuit seeking to block the St. George incorporation effort have accused organizers of not cooperating with recent deposition proceedings and are asking the courts to legally penalize them for it.
But the spokesman for the St. George organizers called those accusations "erroneous" and a "mischaracterization of reality."
Several motions filed Friday by attorney Mary Olive Pierson, who represents the plaintiffs, claim that Chris Rials and Norman Browning, two leaders of the petition that sparked the election to incorporate the new city in southeast East Baton Rouge Parish, didn't show up for recent depositions in the case.
The legal challenge, in which Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and Metro Councilman LaMont Cole are the plaintiffs, asks the court to deny the incorporation of what would be a majority-White city of more than 80,000 people because of the financial impact it would have on the rest of the city-parish.
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St. George was on track to become the fifth city in East Baton Rouge Parish following the October 2019 election, when 54% of the voters living within the proposed boundaries for the city in the southeastern corner of the parish voted in favor of the incorporation.
In the new filings, Pierson asserts Rials' and Browning's attorneys argued the defendant listed in the deposition notices was "The Petitioners to Incorporate the City of St. George" and that neither man can testify on behalf of the 14,585 people who signed the petition and are not parties in the suit.
"We are faced with two parties who are statutorily required to represent numerous parties (who are now represented by attorneys) as their agent but are now denying their agency status in a thinly disguised effort to avoid two properly noticed depositions to the now-underrepresented parties," one of the filings states.
Andrew Murrell, a spokesperson for the St. George organizers, called the filings "mudslinging" from Pierson.
"She doesn't understand the facts or she's using this as a tactic to bully her way into something," Murrell said. "We're more than cooperating. We've already agreed to depositions. And (Rials and Browning) continue to defend the city of St. George just like they have been every day since the beginning. Anything contrary is a lie."
Pierson asks the court to render a default judgement in her clients' favor or an order that would essentially hinder the other side from building a defense to their arguments for incorporation.
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"This is a very foolish position for them to take," Pierson said. "It's the most outrageous position I've ever seen."