Slaughter, Port Allen city council add attorneys in wrongful firing trial

The trial date in the wrongful termination lawsuit Port Allen Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain filed against former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter has once against been reset, this time for July 1.

Arguments in the case were supposed to be heard before District Judge Alvin Batiste on March 31 — four days before the city holds a special election to select a new mayor following Slaughter’s recall from office.

According to a court order filed Tuesday, the trial was reset so a new attorney, J. Scott Thomas, had time to review the case and adequately prepare to defend Slaughter in her official capacity while she was the city’s mayor. Slaughter’s other attorney, Ronald Johnson, will represent on legal issues not dealing with her public life.

McCain sued Slaughter in February 2013 after Slaughter tried to fire her.

Thomas, an attorney with the Louisiana Municipal Association, said Wednesday he was asked by a city insurer to step in because the company recently learned that McCain’s lawsuit was amended to include monetary compensation.

“The third party became aware of the damage claim that could arguably be placed against the town,” Thomas said. “Apparently there was an amendment to the pleading some time ago that was not provided to (them).”

Batiste overturned McCain’s termination, ruling the mayor lacked authority to dismiss the chief financial officer without City Council approval.

A scheduling order related to the trial also reveals Thomas isn’t the only new attorney. Attorney J. Arthur Smith is now representing the city and City Council.

Smith previously represented the three city councilmen that filed a lawsuit against Slaughter in June claiming she was abusing her executive powers as mayor.

Smith was hired by a divided council during a special-called meeting Monday.

Councilmen Hugh “Hootie” Riviere and Garry Hubble voted in favor of Smith’s hiring while councilmen Ray Helen Lawrence and Brandon Brown voted in opposition. Councilman at-large R.J. Loupe was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Interim Mayor Lynn Robertson broke the tie by voting in favor of Smith’s hiring.

“Apparently they felt I had the experience and expertise. And since I was involved in the lawsuit representing the three councilmen I’m familiar with this controversy,” Smith said Wednesday.

City Attorney Lance Joseph said he’s choosing not to represent the city in the McCain lawsuit because it presents a conflict of interest for him.

“I’ve already had conversations with McCain and I don’t think its appropriate of me to take an adverse position in a case involving her,” Joseph said. “And when I came on board as attorney I was told I was not needed to represent the city because they already had current council.”

Editor’s note: The Advocate changed the story on March 27 to correct Lynn Robertson’s title.