Livingston council’s attorney withdraws from parish lawsuit

The Livingston Parish Council’s attorney, Chris Moody, withdrew from a high-profile lawsuit Thursday, saying that doing so would improve his relationship with the council and the administration.

Moody said he had gotten close to achieving a settlement with Alvin Fairburn and Associates, but new information in the case makes a settlement unlikely.

The council has sued the engineering company, alleging that the firm overbilled the parish for roadwork planning.

Moody described the new information as “disturbing,” but did not add details other than to say that it could result in a separate suit or an amendment in the current suit.

He made the announcement after the council held an executive session. He said he would handle the case until the council can find another lawyer to take the case.

Earlier in the meeting, the council tabled a proposal asking voters to decide whether or not they wanted to initiate a 3-mill property tax for mosquito abatement.

Under the tax, the parish would collect about the same amount as it does now, but it would cost a lot less to collect the money, said Jim Ryan, the parish’s financial adviser.

“The current procedure is a logistical nightmare,” Ryan said. “We’re wasting a lot of money trying to collect.”

With a change in the tax collection method, “more money could go to actual abatement,” Ryan said.

Currently, each household is billed $30 a year, but many people aren’t paying it, said Jeanine Tessmer, who heads the parish’s mosquito control program.

Last year, voters defeated a proposal to change the current fee to a property tax.

“I feel like the public has already spoken,” Councilman Chance Parent said. “I can’t support” the proposal.

Council Chairman Marshall Harris said he feels voters might support the property tax if they were better informed about the importance of the mosquito control program.

The program targets the breeds of mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus, Tessmer told the council.

“We feel that if we save one life, it’s worth it,” said Sandra Sibley, who heads the parish’s health unit.

She said she would like to see the program financially able to do aerial spraying.

Councilman Ricky Goff said he wants everybody to pay their fair share. He asked Tessmer to consider proposing a smaller millage that wouldn’t be subject to the homestead exemption.

The council then voted to put off further action on the matter until its May 9 meeting.