Lawsuits cost parish $40K

Councilman says AG opinions supported his position

St. Charles Parish spent $40,000 to defend two lawsuits brought against the parish by Councilman Paul Hogan.

Hogan said his first lawsuit alleged the parish provided inadequate notice on meetings for Sunset drainage district meetings and the second where he maintained the parish failed to remove the sunken vessel Pretty Boy despite the parish having allocated the money for the work.

Judges ruled against him in both cases, but the councilman questions the validity of the decisions. He further maintained the lawsuits were not frivolous, particularly when they were based on Attorney General opinions that supported his position.

“Both rulings were not based upon the merits and the facts of the case,” he said. “That is my opinion.”

Hogan also accused the parish council and administration of stonewalling his efforts and hurting the parish at last Monday’s council meeting. Council Chair Dick Gibbs said Hogan standing behind the podium to make his comments was unprecedented, but knew of no law to stop him.

Parish President Larry Cochran later replied to the accusation, “If we’re all ineffective, why is the parish running so well?”

Cochran said he’s not aware of any of Hogan’s requests that the parish hasn’t responded to, but he said dealing with Hogan’s continual requests and the lawsuits have tied up parish resources that could have been used on needed projects.

Hogan disagreed.

“I maintain the judge made an improper decision,” he said. “We’re the governing authority of the Sunset District and oversee the district. The district does not run itself. It all goes back to an AG opinion that says when the council took over as the Sunset District governing authority we stepped in its shoes and is responsible for the daily operations.”

Parish Attorney Bobby Raymond said Hogan asked Cochran to sign the contract to remove the boat, which is near the councilman’s residence. In 2015, the council did set aside money for the removal. By early 2016, when the contract came up, the council voted more than once to reject the move and Cochran honored the decision, he said. Hogan sued the parish and the court affirmed the parish’s position.

On the Sunset district lawsuit, Raymond said Hogan contended the district meetings were inadequately advertised, but the court affirmed it was advertised properly as part of the council agenda that was posted in the St. Charles Parish Courthouse.

In either case, Raymond said Hogan has the prerogative to act where he sees fit, although it did result in legal fees “forcing the parish to defend itself” as well use parish resources to contend with the councilman’s numerous requests.

“This department spends a substantial amount of time addressing Mr. Hogan’s issues and requests,” the attorney said. “I would suggest we handle more requests for Mr. Hogan than we do for all the other eight council members combined. I’m not complaining, but I want to be clear there are eight other council members I have to work with and they are not nearly as demanding.”

As to the cost of the two lawsuits, Hogan replied, “That’s just parish business. It’s normal parish activities. Whenever anyone sues the parish it results in legal fees.”

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