By Heidi R. Kinchen
Florida Parishes bureau
June 27, 2012
GREENSBURG — The state Attorney General’s Office has rejected a proposed contract between the St. Helena Police Jury and an outside lawyer to draft ordinances regulating adult businesses in the parish, the Police Jury learned Tuesday night.
The Police Jury voted 4-2 on May 8 to approve a contract with Scott Bergthold, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based lawyer, to craft ordinances in response to residents’ concerns about the parish’s two strip clubs, The Mansion and Oak Ridge Lounge.
The contract, which calls for a flat fee of $4,500 for the work, was then sent to the Attorney General’s Office for approval as required under state law.
The Attorney General’s Office rejected the proposal, however, “based on the fact that we were not provided with sufficient information to make a determination as to whether the contract should be approved,” spokeswoman Laura Gerdes Colligan said in an email Tuesday afternoon.
Colligan declined to comment further on what information the proposal was lacking.
In a letter to the Police Jury, District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said the issue was with the payment method.
“They (the Attorney General’s Office) have taken the position of a one-time fee or retainer does not comply with their fee structure to be approved,” Perrilloux said in the letter.
Perrilloux said he believes the Police Jury can restructure the agreement in a way the Attorney General’s Office will approve.
Under state law, no parish governing authority may hire outside legal counsel for any reason without first submitting for the Attorney General’s approval a resolution “stating fully the reasons for the action and the compensation to be paid.”
The law does not apply to a parish whose home rule charter specifically allows for the hiring of special counsel, but it does apply to parishes run by police juries, such as St. Helena.
Under the proposed contract with Bergthold, the Police Jury would pay him a flat fee of $4,500 to draft the new laws and an additional $500 per visit each time he travels to St. Helena Parish.
Additionally, if the ordinances Bergthold drafted were later challenged in court, he would represent the parish in defending them for $175 per hour, according to the contract.
Phone consultations about the drafted regulations would be at no charge, said Richard Sandberg, spokesman for the Moral Alliance of St. Helena.
The alliance, a citizens group with outspoken critics of the strip clubs, recommended Bergthold’s services to the Police Jury.