Government should be of laws, not men! Next to the famous deal between Huey Long and Texaco that cost Louisianans millions of dollars, the actions of the Attorney General and the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA) might be the worst case of neglect and law breaking I have witnessed.
In his article, Avalanche of Contingency Contracts Coming, the AG is directing attention from an unlawful contingency fee contract approved by his office for the SLFPA. The SLFPA is suing oil companies and enriching trial attorneys through exorbitant contingency fees of 22.5 percent to 32.5 percent on present and future values plus cost or an unknown hourly rate plus costs if the suit is withdrawn. To date, the cost to withdraw the suit is estimated $5 million plus.
Louisiana law, RS 42:263, requires in part that before hiring and paying special legal counsel a parish governing authority, levee board, parish school board, city school board, or other local or state board must provide a resolution to the AG for his approval stating fully the reasons for the action and the compensation to be paid. This provision of law was added in 1979 and amended in 1982.
Louisiana Law, RS 38:330, created the SLFPA in 2006. This law provides in part: “The state attorney general and his assistants shall be and are hereby designated as counsel…” This law supersedes RS 42:263 above as the later expression of legislative intent as to who shall be counsel for the SLFPA.
Like it or not, the AG is the counsel for the SLFPA and he admits in his article that his office is prohibited from entering into contingency fee contracts. When I questioned the AG why he allowed a contingency contract, he laid it off on his staff. They are wrong and he should know better.
Furthermore, the SLFPA is an “Authority”, not a levee board, etc. as described in RS: 42:263. If the Legislature intended for the SLFPA to be included in RS 42:263, the Legislature would not have expressly provided for the Attorney General to represent the SLFPA in RS:38:330.6 and “special flood protection authorities” would have been amended into RS: 42:263. They were not.
To further break the law, the resolution presented to the AG did not fully state the compensation as required. A so-called “poison pill” provision was left out of the resolution. That provision requires payment of all costs to be paid “if for any reason” the lawsuit is terminated including termination by any third parties, which would include legislative action or future appointees to the SLFPA.
The shroud of secrecy used to keep the public from being aware was also unlawful. Agendas for the SLFPA are required to be published in advance of meetings. The agenda posted prior to SLFPA engaging special counsel in a closed-door session did not include the item for discussion. And the SLFPA did not publicly seek out other attorneys in a Request for Proposals (RFP) process in which other professionals would have been allowed to submit bids for services in an open and competitive forum. Sunshine is normally the best disinfectant but it was not applied here.
The public can forgive a mistake but not a cover-up. Hence, the question that begs an answer is, why does the AG allow this contingency fee arrangement to remain in effect knowing it violated laws? Instead, he chooses to cover the inappropriate actions by directing the public’s attention elsewhere. The public interest would be better served if the AG would man-up to the mistake and move forward.
In summary, the actions taken by the SLFPA and AG are not about saving Louisiana ’s coast but it is about money and General Caldwell continues to fiddle while Rome is burning.
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