The Lafayette Consolidated Government put out a press release today detailing the consideration of an ordinance to appoint a special counsel to represent the city of Lafayette. The counsel will help resolve the current dispute with the City-Parish Attorney's office over the City Council's ability to control city tax dollars as the voters intended.

The counsel that will be voted upon is Lee Ann Batson, who brings over 30 years of experience as a representative of consolidated government in East Baton Rouge Parish, with four years as Parish Attorney.

As the deadline to pass the 2021 budget quickly approaches, Council Chair Pat Lewis has formally requested that the ordinance be put on the agenda for the Special City Council's meeting on August 18, 2020. If the ordinance is introduced in the meeting, it will be considered for Final Adoption on September 1st, 2020. This comes 10 days ahead of the Budget Adoption that is scheduled for September 10.

Lewis detailed how crucial the move is saying, “We have a key budget hearing on August 27 that will almost certainly involve disputes over who can control city tax dollars. If the City Council loses control over city tax dollars, it will be difficult to prevent city tax dollars from being spent for non-city purposes. City taxpayers need and deserve their own legal representation.”

Lewis goes on to say how the situation is near-emergency as concern has been expressed by many over adopting a budget that may not be legal.

The City Council will utilize the Home Rule Charter, which allows an attorney to serve as special counsel for a "specific reason". The press release reads, "...the City Council will consider hiring Ms. Batson for the purpose of assisting the City Council in its dispute with the administration and Parish Council over how to properly interpret and implement the joint decision-making aspects of the charter".

Referring to the pay for Ms. Batson, Lewis says that she will be paid at the same rates established by the Louisiana Attorney General's office.