McCain v. Slaughter headed for trial in Port Allen

After a protracted legal fight lasting more than a year, a state district court judge this week will hear arguments in the wrongful termination lawsuit Port Allen Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain filed against former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter.

Attorneys for McCain said the three-day bench trial, set to begin Tuesday in the 18th Judicial District Court, will rehash many of the headline-grabbing deeds leading up to the embattled former mayor’s removal from office.

“The mayor defamed Ms. McCain; the mayor retaliated against her,” attorney Seth Dornier said of the need for the case to be tried in court. “When you have someone like Ms. McCain, who is a lawyer and former legislator, her reputation, honor and integrity is all she has. How much is that worth? That’s what this is about.”

The legal battle between the two women started in February 2013 when Slaughter, only a month into her first term as mayor, tried to fire McCain over accounting deficiencies cited in an annual audit report for the city.

McCain reacted by filing suit against Slaughter and quickly got her job back through a judge’s order. That judge ruled the mayor lacked authority to dismiss the chief financial officer without City Council approval.

But tensions between the women only intensified upon McCain’s return to work.

Slaughter, a black woman, on several occasions publicly accused McCain, a white woman, along with other white members of her administration, of being racists and working against her behind the scenes in City Hall.

About two months after getting her job back, McCain asked the court to hold Slaughter in contempt for allegedly continually interfering with her job.

In the interim, Slaughter made several executive decisions, such as stripping McCain of her banking privileges with the city, that McCain’s lawyers say made her job increasingly difficult to do.

Slaughter eventually was recalled from office 11 months into her tenure as mayor. She made a second attempt at reclaiming the position during a special election in April but lost to Mayor Richard Lee.

Since then, Slaughter has faded from the public eye.

McCain is seeking through her suit compensation for harassment and character attacks she claims Slaughter mounted against her since the attempted firing.

“She needs to be compensated for the hell she went through,” said Cy D’Aquila, another attorney for McCain. “The city elected her (Slaughter) into office, she did bad things, now you’ve got to pay for it. The law is designed to deter future action. If we were to let this go, any other mayor that comes into that office might try to do what she has done.”

D’Aquila said he expects to spend a day questioning Slaughter on the stand. Ralph Slaughter, her brother-in-law whom she appointed as her unpaid chief of staff while in office, also was subpoenaed to testify at the trial.

McCain sued Slaughter in her official capacity as mayor and in her personal capacity.

Attorney J. Arthur Smith will represent the city in the case, while J. Scott Thomas, an attorney with the Louisiana Municipal Association, will defend Slaughter as acting in her official capacity while she was the city’s mayor.

Smith was out of state last week and could not be reached for comment; Thomas did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Attorney Ron Johnson is representing Slaughter in her personal capacity.

Johnson said Slaughter has moved on and thought the matter had been “put to bed” after her recall from office.

“I don’t know what ax Ms. McCain has to grind; she’s still employed, she’s still performing all the (job) duties the City Council allowed her to do,” Johnson said. “McCain claims she’s protecting the interests of the city but is now suing for money from the city herself. But that’s what happens; it never ends.”

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.