Mayhall Fondren Blaize

Business litigation sometimes conflates with political motives

The local parish governments in Louisiana are often embroiled in business disputes with a variety of private businesses, including developers, contractors, vendors, consultants and even, at times, political consultants. Business litigation attorneys are often retained to represent business interests in such disputes. Sometimes, however, the litigation may devolve into political issues and local partisan bickering. That may be the case in a federal lawsuit filed against the Jefferson Parish Council.

Just recently, the parish council voted against a proposal to settle the federal lawsuit. The suit was filed by a political consultant who is claiming he was harmed by an ordinance that forbids the parish from awarding a consulting contract to one who represented an elected official during the prior election cycle. In this case, the consultant may have represented most of the existing parish council members in prior political campaigns.

The ordinance is apparently a good government provision to prevent an individual from getting contracts when he had been politically involved with those who are currently voting on the city contract. However, the consultant attacked the ordinance in federal court. He was on the verge of getting a settlement, largely on the apparent support of several councilmen for whom he worked on political campaign matters.

Members of the public and other council members recently opposed the settlement, which they claimed was tainted with favoritism and influence. The sub-filings and state ethics charges in the matter go back and forth and comprise a maze of conflicting arguments, complicated by numerous interconnecting relationships. With so many opposing claims coming to the surface, it does not appear that the so-called business litigation filed by the consultant will be successful. The dispute does perhaps best illustrate the need for ethics regulations to be clarified and enforced with respect to Louisiana local government affairs and the types of business litigation that can be fairly heard by local government bodies.

Source: theadvocate.com, "Jefferson Parish Council defeats proposal to settle political consultant's federal lawsuit against the parish", Ramon Antonio Vargas, Jan. 11, 2017

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