We live in a time where people cheer for a strong Executive. It doesn’t matter whether it is at the local or national level. Whether it be Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis, individuals look at the Executive as being the most important figure in American politics. It wasn’t always that way.
The increase in the power and influence exalted by the head of the Executive branch can be seen in the decades following the American Civil War. A dramatic shift from true federalism to a more nationalistic type of government occurs during this period as Supreme Court Justice Salmon P. Chase declared “States rights died at Appommattox.” Up until this point in American history the Chief Executive of the national government was largely given his marching orders from a part-time Congress. Today, we find this type of mentality has invaded and infected the local political structure.
LAFAYETTE CITY-PARISH CONSOLIDATED GOVERNMENT (LCG)
LCG is governed by a home rule charter established pursuant to Article VI, Section 5 of the Constitution of Louisiana. The home rule charter specifies that the Legislative powers are vested in either the City Council, Parish Council or jointly depending on the matter. The Executive Power is vested with the Mayor-President who “shall exercise general executive and administrative authority over all departments, offices and agencies…” The Mayor-President has a grant of ten expressly delegated powers and duties. Further, the charter establishes the position of the “director of the legal department” who serves as “Chief Legal Advisor” and whose duties are narrowly defined to include representing “the City of Lafayette, the Parish of Lafayette, and the City-Parish Government in all legal proceedings; and perform other duties prescribed by this charter or ordinance.”
Gregory J. Logan was appointed as the Director of the Legal Department and as Lafayette City-Parish Attorney by a resolution adopted on January 7, 2020 where he has served for the last three years. Gregory J. Logan is also the sole owner and operator of The Logan Firm, A Professional Limited Liability Company and has been for the entire time he has served as the Director of the Legal Department for Lafayette City-Parish Government.
LCG FILES SUIT AGAINST… ITSELF!?
On April 10, 2023 Gibson Law Partners, LLC and Greg Logan, counsel for Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government filed suit against the Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board alleging violations of the Louisiana open meetings law when it entered into Executive Session on February 9, 2023. One of the interesting things about this suit is that no matter the outcome, the taxpayers will be straddled with the attorney fees for both sides. The plaintiff, LCG, is also the defendant, the Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board with Gibson Law Partners, LLC profiting from prosecution of the matter. Interestingly enough Greg Logan also serves as an Agent for Gibson Law Partners, LLC.
This matter involves the improper termination of Lafayette Police Officer Jeremy Robert. Robert was re-instated by the Board following a hearing. LCG, who has been unsuccessful in appealing the decision of the Board has now set their sights on targeting the Board itself. This time, instead of appealing the matter, they allege the Board voted in secret, violating the open meetings law. Even if LCG is successful in the suit, the proper remedy is that the action of the Board would be voided. However, nothing would prevent the Board from taking another vote at the very next available meeting and producing the same outcome.
WHO AUTHORIZED THE SUIT?
When it comes to being a good steward of taxpayer funds, everyone should ask themselves who authorized such nonsense. After all, why would one entity of local government expend funds to sue another entity of the same local government?
Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 694 states: “An agent has the procedural capacity to sue to enforce a right of his principal, when specially authorized to do so.”
While the Mayor-President of the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government acts as its agent, he lacks the expressly delegated power to unilaterally institute legal proceedings against another party. He must be “specially authorized to do so.” Further, even though the Mayor-President has authority to “direct and supervise the administration of all departments, offices and agencies…” (including the legal department), the Director of the Legal Department has not been expressly delegated power to unilaterally institute legal proceedings against another party, either. He is authorized to “represent the City of Lafayette, the Parish of Lafayette, and the City-Parish Government in all legal proceedings,” but cannot decide when to file suit against an entity. That, again, must be “specially authorized.” And when the matter involves the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government it must be authorized jointly by the City and Parish Councils. This also raises the question as to whether there exist a lack of procedural capacity to move forward with unauthorized litigation.
THE NEW PACE OF GOVERNMENT IS UNLAWFUL
It is the City and Parish Councils that are the governing bodies. They alone possess the power to authorize the use of public funds to pursue legal action. In doing so, they must also bear the risk associated with paying the other side’s legal fees if the matter is unsuccessful. For these reasons, this new pace of government is clearly unlawful. There exists no ordinances or resolutions authorizing this and many other legal adventures being pursued by Logan. Is it any wonder how LCG came to find themselves involved in litigation where Lafayette City Court Judge Doug Saloom was sued for a public records request for which his attorney claimed they had already responded?
One of the earliest unauthorized legal adventures occurred when Logan interjected himself into a decades old case involving the removal of statue to military veteran, Alfred Mouton. The matter had been litigated and fought over for many years by private parties until July of 2020 when Logan intervened without authority. The Logan Law Firm would receive compensation exceeding $67,000 for their role in this matter. Does this qualify as unjust enrichment? The Logan Law Firm has also racked up on legal fees since Greg Logan was appointed Director of the Legal Department, receiving $440,560 in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, receiving $597,114 in the 2020-2021 fiscal year and $1,393,097 in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
Just how much if any of these legal expenses were received from the pursuit of unauthorized and unlawful activities remains to be seen. But what we see is just a symptom of a much bigger problem – a political system that has been turned upside down. A system in which the national government wields extraordinary influence over our daily lives. A system in which the Executive’s bureaucracy is no longer being confined by the powers of the U.S. or State Constitutions, the Home Rule Charter or the laws, ordinances and regulations enacted by the governing authority.
Has the Mayor-President authorized any of these legal actions, and authorized the legal fees incurred?