McCain-Slaughter lawsuit set for four days before election

A state district judge Wednesday reset the trial date in the wrongful termination lawsuit Port Allen Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain filed against former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter.

District Judge Alvin Batiste plans to hear arguments in the case on March 31, four days before the city holds a special election to select a new mayor following Slaughter’s recall from office.

Slaughter said Wednesday she won’t let the upcoming trial’s close date to the April 5 special election be a distraction to her campaign. Slaughter is one of four candidates vying for the mayoral seat in the April election.

“My goal is to continue to get out there and work with the people,” she said. “This thing started about February and it has just been hanging out there for a year. I will be glad for this to come to an end.”

Batiste reset the trial, originally scheduled for Sept. 19, after a brief hearing Wednesday at which McCain’s attorney tried to determine the location of a book containing city records he said was important to the case.

Seth Dornier, an attorney for McCain, said the records book was last seen in July during a previous hearing regarding the lawsuit.

“Both sides need it,” Dornier said after court Wednesday. “(Slaughter’s) lawyer says the records are critical to the mayor’s case and it’s critical to our case, too. Right now, no one knows where it is. It just seems unresolved.”

Despite the missing records book, Dornier said, the trial will proceed and his side is happy about the new date. He said he expects the trial to play out over two days.

McCain sued Slaughter in February 2013 after Slaughter tried to fire her over accounting deficiencies cited in an audit report of the city’s financial records for fiscal year 2011.

Batiste ruled the mayor lacked authority to dismiss McCain without City Council approval because McCain is a city government department head and ordered McCain reinstated.

The case has since been pushed back multiple times, with additional filings from both sides.

McCain asked the court on April 4 to hold Slaughter in contempt for allegedly interfering with her job following Batiste’s Feb. 20, 2013, ruling ordering her reinstatement.

Dornier said McCain is now asking the court to be compensated for harassment and character attacks she claims Slaughter mounted against her since the attempted firing.

“The city is still liable; it doesn’t matter if the mayor leaves office,” Dornier said. “We’ve been prepared and ready to go on this for a long time.”

Ronald Johnson, Slaughter’s attorney, said Slaughter had every right to fire McCain without ratification from the City Council because McCain lacked department head status.

“We know she’s not a department head; there is no department of finance in the city,” Johnson said. “The council is debating that issue now.”

Johnson was referring to an ordinance the City Council introduced this month to grant department head status to five administrative positions — including that of CFO. A public hearing is set for March 12.