Firm sues two Livingston council members

An engineering firm has sued two Livingston Parish Council members Monday over comments it says they made concerning preliminary plans for a project in Livingston Parish.

The lawsuit by Alvin Fairburn & Associates LLC alleges Council Chairman Marshall Harris and Councilwoman Cindy Wale made defamatory statements about the firm in
a television newscast last week.

“The council members had actual knowledge of the falsity of their statements, when they accused the firm of defrauding the parish,” the suit filed Monday in 21st Judicial District Court states.

The suit named only Wale and Harris, and did not name the parish or WBRZ-TV, which aired the story.

Wale couldn’t be reached for comment late Monday, and Harris said he couldn’t comment because he hadn’t been served.

Chuck Bark, news director of WBRZ, said he didn’t want to comment on a suit filed against other people.

Wale, Harris and the rest of the council unanimously adopted a resolution on Sept. 22, 2011, to hire Fairburn to do two parts of a nine-part project involving Duff Road, but the work was limited
to a $15,000 preliminary design and a $20,000 detailed route study, according to the suit.

The company informed the council clerk that her subsequent draft of the resolution could be interpreted to mean that the company had been authorized to do all nine parts of the project, at additional cost to the parish.

She revised the wording to limit the work to the design and route survey, the suit states.

The rewording, which was approved as part of the minutes at the next council meeting, clarified what the council had approved and did not increase the cost, the suit says.

Last week, a TV report accused Fairburn of being complicit in charging the parish an additional $31,000, the suit continues.

It quotes Harris as saying the change in the resolution cost the parish $31,000.

In fact, Fairburn completed the work for $31,000 rather than the $35,000 approved in the resolution, the lawsuit states.

Statements by Harris and Wale accuse Fairburn of criminal conduct and injury to the company’s professional reputation, the suit says.