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Special counsel for Lafayette City Council resigns

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Posted at 8:27 PM, Nov 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 21:27:29-05

LAFAYETTE, La. — The Lafayette City Council announced Thursday that its special legal counsel Lea Anne Batson has resigned after a lawsuit filed against her by the City-Parish Administration was amended to seek damages.

Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory and City-Parish Attorney Gregory Logan filed the lawsuit against Batson back in October after vetoing an ordinance passed by the city council to hire its own legal counsel in August.

According to a release from City Council Chairman Pat Lewis, Batons resigned as the council's special counsel after the risk of personal financial liability was too much for her.

Lewis says that the lawsuit will not be successful but the city council will continue its fight to safeguard city tax dollars and stop wasteful spending.

“I believe it was incredibly inappropriate for the administration to sue Ms. Batson personally and seek damages from her,” Lewis stated in the release. “The administration has sunk to a new low in their ongoing attempt to keep the City Council from protecting the city residents’ tax dollars.”

The release states that the city council hired Batson pursuant to the provisions of the City-Parish Charter for the purpose of helping to settle the ongoing disputes with Guillory and Logan.

According to Batson's resignation letter, Section 4-03(E.) of the Lafayette City-Parish Home Rule Charter states:

No special legal counsel shall be retained by the City of Lafayette, the Parish of Lafayette, and/or the City-Parish Government except by written contract for a specific purpose approved by the favorable vote of a majority of the authorized membership of the City Council, the Parish Council, or both, depending upon the subject matter of the engagement and in accordance with pertinent provisions of this charter, including, but not limited to, Sections 1-06, 2-01, and 2-11. Such authorization shall specify the compensation, if any, to be paid for such services.

In a September letter to the council explaining the reason for the veto, Guillory states that the Home Rule Charter grants the mayor-president the ability to appoint and remove all city, parish and city-parish employees and appointive administrative officers, who serve at the pleasure of the mayor-president.

He added that the mayor-president also appoints the city-parish attorney who serves as director of the legal department, and as chief legal adviser to the mayor-president, city and parish councils and all departments, offices and agencies.

The release from Lewis states that the administration is misinterpreting the charter amendments recently approved by voters to require the parish council to approve spending City of Lafayette tax dollars.

Batson was hired in part to provide the city council with a second opinion and to represent the interests of City of Lafayette taxpayers, the release states.

“The voters approved the charter amendments with the intent of giving the City of Lafayette more autonomy," Lewis states. "The administration is twisting the words of the charter to do just the opposite. This is now another example (of) how consolidation is not fair to the City of Lafayette.”

Council Member Nanette Cook stated,

“I think it is obvious that our long experiment with consolidation has failed and that it is time to look at total de-consolidation of city and parish governments,” stated City Councilmember Nanette Cook in the release.

The release states that because of the actions of Logan, the city council is not able to help Batson pay for her defense.

“I am very disappointed that the Legal Department is using City of Lafayette tax dollars to harass the attorney we hired to protect the City of Lafayette,” Lewis said. “City residents elected the City Council to represent their interests. It’s time for the administration to stop playing games.”

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