Sept. 19 trial date set in lawsuit against Port Allen mayor

Official challenges firing by mayor

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Port Allen Mayor Demetric 'Deedy' Slaughter, left, walks away from the the West Baton Rouge Courthouse as her attorney Ronald Johnson, gestures after speaking to the media on her behalf on Wednesday outside  in Port Allen.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Port Allen Mayor Demetric 'Deedy' Slaughter, left, walks away from the the West Baton Rouge Courthouse as her attorney Ronald Johnson, gestures after speaking to the media on her behalf on Wednesday outside in Port Allen.

A state district judge on Wednesday set a Sept. 19 trial date for the wrongful termination lawsuit Port Allen Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain brought against Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter.

District Judge Alvin Batiste denied portions of Slaughter’s request to have McCain’s case dismissed, ruling several of Slaughter’s claims lacked the “material facts” needed by the court as a basis for taking such action.

After Batiste’s ruling, McCain attorney Seth Donnier urged the judge to proceed with the trial immediately.

“We’re ready to go,” Donnier told the judge. “The defense has caused this delay. The conduct that brought this on continues every day.”

Batiste set the matter for a later date to give Slaughter’s new attorney, Ronald Johnson, time to prepare arguments.

Johnson stepped in as the mayor’s legal counsel Wednesday after the court granted a request from Slaughter’s previous attorneys to be excused from handling the case.

Slaughter made an appearance in court Wednesday morning, her first since the legal battle between she and McCain erupted in February.

The mayor referred all questions from the news media regarding the case to her attorney.

“The mayor feels good about what went on today,” Johnson said outside the courtroom. “We believe the law is on the mayor’s side. McCain is a person who is not satisfied with the position God has blessed her with. As such, she’s trying to circumvent the power and the authority of the Mayor’s Office.”

Johnson added he intends to appeal the judge’s denials of Slaughter’s request for dismissal.

“We will prevail either at the trial or the court of appeals,” Johnson said. “The judge didn’t say that today, but that doesn’t mean we won’t prevail on the merits ultimately.”

Donnier, McCain’s attorney, called Wednesday’s court proceedings “positive” and a step forward toward a final resolution in the matter.

“There were a lot of rulings. We need to look at what those rulings were (but) we believe it’s huge progress,” Donnier said outside of court.

“The case is procedurally complex and the allegations are complex. We believe the judge made very good rulings.”

McCain has asked the court to grant a permanent injunction nullifying Slaughter’s attempt to fire her in February.

On Feb. 20, Batiste blocked the mayor’s attempt to dismiss McCain and ordered her reinstated on the grounds Slaughter lacked authority to dismiss McCain without City Council approval because McCain is a city government department head.

McCain then asked the court on April 4 to hold Slaughter in contempt for allegedly interfering with her job following Batiste’s Feb. 20 ruling.

Slaughter responded by asking the court to dismiss the claims McCain filed against Slaughter in her personal capacity and the issues raised over McCain’s termination as the city’s chief financial officer and dual role as the city clerk.

On Wednesday, Batiste denied most of Slaughter’s requests for dismissal but did grant the mayor’s request that the claims against her in her personal capacity be thrown out.

“The mayor cannot be sued in her individual capacity because the alleged firing was in her official capacity as mayor,” Batiste said.

Batiste also threw out McCain’s assertion that Slaughter’s actions against her were in violation of McCain’s due process rights under the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution’s Due Process Clause prohibits government officials from depriving persons of life, liberty or property without legislative authorization.