OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish Council voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Mike Skinner as a defense attorney to represent the council in connection with a state district court injunction filed last month by parish President Bill Fontenot.
The injunction contests the council’s vote at an August meeting to override Fontenot’s veto of five ordinances.
Skinner was hired by the council last month in a separate district court lawsuit, which asks a judge to require Fontenot to provide copies of documents in connection with a state legislative auditor’s investigation of credit card usage by former parish President Don Menard in 2011.
In other litigation, the council has filed a district court judge to decide whether the council or the parish president has the authority to hire or terminate the director of the parishwide Community Action Agency.
Fontenot placed CAA director Donald Robinson on paid administrative lead last month after Fontenot alleged there are problems in the CAA’s accounting procedures.
The alleged bookkeeping problems Fontenot said, caused the CAA to delay payments in a parishwide weatherization program and to assist indigent residents with their electricity costs.
In an interview, Fontenot said he expects the four judges for the 27th Judicial District Court judges to ask the State Supreme Court to appoint a judge from outside the district to preside over Fontenot’s request for an injunction. Fontenot said the judges who hear cases tried in St. Landry, are affected by one of the council’s ordinances at issue, which requires payment of a 4 percent administrative fee for handling transactions.
The council, Fontenot said, wants the money from the fee to be applied to road maintenance and construction. Fontenot said it should be placed in the general fund and used in other areas of parish government in addition to road work.
After selecting Skinner, council attorney Andrea West said the Clerk of Court’s Office has refused to record any documents filed by the council in connection with the lawsuits.
“When we try to record things, the clerk of court is refusing to record them until they are paid,” West said. “I don’t know the costs. When I speak to them, I tell them (the council) is exempt from paying the costs.”
Fontenot told council members he did not know what was going on in the Clerk of Court’s Office, and that it was the first he was hearing of any dispute over getting legal documents recorded.
“I don’t have any authority up there,” Fontenot said, referring to the Clerk of Court Office.
Following some discussion, the council voted unanimously passed a resolution to contact St. Landry Clerk of Court Charles Jagneaux about the matter.
After adjourning the special meeting, the council voted to go into two closed sessions to discuss litigation in connection with the Community Action Agency issue and the other court case involving the request to have Fontenot produce copies of the documents provided for the legislative auditor’s investigation.
Voting to hire Skinner on Tuesday night were Jerry Red Jr., Leron Robinson, Huet Dupre, Ronald Buschel, Jimmie Edwards, Pam Gautreau and Timothy Lejeune.
Hurlin Dupre, Alvin Stelly Gary Courville, Fekisha Miller-Mathews and Dexter Brown were absent from the vote taken to hire Skinner.