Attorney: Annexation suit should be dismissed

An attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish is arguing that a lawsuit challenging the recent annexations of the Mall of Louisiana and Baton Rouge General hospital into the city of Baton Rouge should be dismissed because the plaintiff lacks standing to file a suit.

Former legislator and newspaper owner Woody Jenkins filed a lawsuit last month, challenging the annexations on the grounds that the boundaries of the property added to the city were unreasonably drawn and violated state and local procedures.

But Jenkins doesn’t live in the annexed area, nor does he live in the unincorporated part of the parish that is losing the mall and the hospital to the city of Baton Rouge.

So Baton Rouge attorney Mary Olive Pierson, who was hired to represent the city against Jenkins, said Jenkins is unaffected by the annexation and therefore lacks the legally required standing to even file a lawsuit.

“Because he is and will remain unaffected by the annexation, Jenkins has no real and actual interest in challenging the annexation, as required by law, and his petition should be dismissed, with prejudice,” Pierson wrote in court filings submitted Monday.

State law says “any interested citizen of the municipality or of the territory proposed to be annexed,” can legally challenge the annexation, with interested being defined as a person with a personal stake in the outcome.

Jenkins has argued that he has a personal stake because the addition of the new properties into the city of Baton Rouge, where he lives, will dilute the city Police Department’s resources.

The Baton Rouge Plan of Government, which comprises the local laws the city-parish abides by, says “any citizen” can file a challenge to the annexation. Jenkins said this local provision is what guarantees his standing.

The annexation was a flashpoint in the debate about the proposed city of St. George because it was seen both as a money grab by the city because the mall is a major sales tax revenue generator, and it called into question whether St. George organizers would have to restart their petition process because the action changed the originally stated boundaries of the new city.

The Louisiana Attorney General weighed in last week and said he didn’t believe St. George should have to restart the petition process because of the annexation; however, Pierson said she disagreed and would file suit in the event a petition is submitted.

Baton Rouge Councilman John Delgado, who is an outspoken opponent of the proposed city of St. George, said he agreed that Jenkins’ suit should be tossed.

“The motion filed today raises a simple question,” he said. “What is Mr. Jenkins’ particular interest in the annexation of the mall? The law requires that he answer that, and I suspect that he had no answer.”

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow the City Hall Buzz blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz.