Judge tosses some claims against ex-Port Allen mayor

The anticipated final showdown in the bitter legal fight between the city’s chief financial officer, Audrey McCain, and former mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter on Tuesday ended up something of a bust.

But if anyone could declare an early round victory, it was the woman who walked out of 18th Judicial District Court with a smile on her face. That would be the former mayor, whose fights with McCain and a segment of the City Council sparked her recall from office.

“I’m just praising God, that’s my source,” Slaughter said outside the courthouse. “Hopefully, this will be the end of it all.”

The early round victory for Slaughter and the team of attorneys representing her in McCain’s wrongful termination lawsuit came as District Judge Alvin Batiste tossed out several claims in McCain’s lawsuit.

Batiste dismissed McCain’s claims of retaliation and intentional emotional distress immediately following opening statements on Tuesday. The judge also blocked McCain’s attempt to have the city award her compensation related to the turmoil and distress she suffered while Slaughter was in office.

However, Batiste gave McCain’s lawyers 15 days to amend their claims and build a stronger case that Slaughter violated the whistleblower law, defamed McCain and abused her rights as mayor.

The city’s attorney, J. Arthur Smith, had argued in his opening statements that lawyers for McCain, in their pretrial filings, failed to sufficiently support their case.

Batiste reset the trial date for Sept. 16 after meeting with attorneys following opening statements in what was supposed to have been a three-day bench trial. The proceedings ended approximately 30 minutes after they started.

McCain sued Slaughter in February 2013 after Slaughter tried to fire her over accounting deficiencies cited in an annual audit report for the city.

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

However, allegations that Slaughter’s firing violated the state’s whistleblower law and that the former mayor had defamed McCain and interfered with her day-to-day job duties as CFO caused the legal battle to stretch on for more than a year.

Slaughter was recalled from office in November 2013.

Batiste will hear arguments regarding the amended claims at the Sept. 16 trial.

At that time, McCain’s attorneys plan to argue the facts surrounding their April 2013 claim that Slaughter should be held in contempt of court for allegedly disregarding stipulations the judge imposed when he overturned McCain’s firing last year.

Smith said he was pleased with the outcome of the proceedings Tuesday, in terms of the impact on the city.

“It was a very good victory for the city, I believe,” Smith said “It’s clear there’s not going to be a large judgment that the taxpayers have to pay, so it’s a good day for the citizens and the taxpayers.”

Smith said council members and others, not just McCain, had a difficult time, during Slaughter’s administration. But, he said, that doesn’t mean a person who feels they have been wronged by his or her boss is entitled to a damage award.

“People have bosses they don’t like every day,” Smith said. “That doesn’t mean they run to court and get a big judgment because they had a bad time with their boss. We’d really be opening the floodgates if that were the law.”

Slaughter said outside the courthouse that she had no harsh feelings toward McCain and also harbors no regrets about anything she did while in office.

“I’m a people person; I love people,” she said. “Sometimes things get in the way to make a person that is a good person look like a bad person.”

Her husband, Ron Slaughter, chimed in, “We’ve lived in Port Allen all our life. We’re good people. I just ask everybody to repent for everything. We’re going to have to get together and try to live with each other and do the right thing.”

Batiste expressed hope in court Tuesday that both sides could reach an amicable agreement which could suspend the need for the trial.

McCain’s attorney, Cy D’Aquila, said it would take cooperation from the city to make that happen.

“I’m disappointed obviously because we were prepared and ready to go to trial today,” D’Aquila said in reaction to Tuesday’s court proceedings. “But the law affords people remedies and that was a remedy the city decided to take.”

Seth Dornier, McCain’s second attorney, added, “All the claims are still viable, we just have to make them more specific.”

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter @tjonesreporter.