Opinion: Lou Gehrig Burnett – Bossier City Contract Attorneys

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Bossier City contract attorneys

It’s time for our annual report on how much taxpayer money Bossier City spent in 2015 on “contract attorneys,” who are hired by the city to represent it in specialized cases.
How much the city is paying private or contract attorneys to handle the city’s legal work is always an interesting topic of discussion in legal and political circles.
These attorneys and law firms are not part of the Bossier City Attorney’s Office, which has its own staff to handle routine legal matters and some lawsuits against the city.
The city will usually contract with a private attorney or firm for a lawsuit in which the attorney or firm has expertise on the subject of the litigation.
Here are the fees for contract attorneys hired by Bossier City in 2015, arranged by amount  received and rounded to the nearest dollar.
1. Neil Erwin LLC – $511,997.
2. Kean Miller – $266.398.
3.. Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway – $41,544
TOTAL CONTRACT FEES – $821,938.
Some of the fees attributed to some attorneys may have been for real estate acquisitions or for escrow payments on property acquisitions.  That amount would have to be subtracted from the total fees paid.
It is entirely possible, therefore, that this was the case with the attorneys and law firms that received large amounts of money from the city.

From past to present
Here is the amount of money Bossier City has paid to contract attorneys since 2008:
Under Mayor Lorenz “Lo” Walker
City Attorney – Jimmy Hall
2008 – $544.635.
2009 – $388,202.
2010 – $451,296.
2011 – $2,025,816.
2012 – $3,103,748.
2013 – $$443,286.
2014 – $271,914.

‘Religious freedom’ bill up in House
Bossier City state Rep. Mike Johnson’s so-called “religious freedom” legislation passed in the Civil Law and Procedure Committee and was scheduled for consideration on the House floor on Tuesday, April 19.
The controversial bill passed out of committee with all Republicans voting for it, including Johnson and state Rep. Alan Seabaugh of Shreveport, and the three Democrats on the committee voting against it, including Shreveport state Rep. Sam Jenkins.
Similar bills enacted in North Carolina and Mississippi have created chaos in those states and is adversely affecting tourism and businesses. The Republican governor of Georgia, under much pressure from big businesses in his state, vetoed similar legislation.
But proponents of the legislation insist Johnson’s bill is different and refer to it as the “pastor protection” bill. It says that a religious institution should not be forced to participate in any marriage which violates its belief system.  The original bill also included the language “or any organization connected to a religious institution,” but it was deleted in committee.
Anti-discrimination advocates and organizations, including businesses, are keeping a close eye on the legislation as it reaches the House floor for amendments that they would consider to be pro-discrimination.
Should Johnson’s bill pass the House, it still needs Senate approval.  If the bill makes it through the Legislature, it is a good bet that Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards would veto it.

JBE’s protective order
Just one day after Rep. Mike Johnson’s bill won committee approval, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT people who work in state government.
It provides protections for state employees and employees of state contractors on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, disability, or age.
Similar executive orders were signed by former Democratic Governors Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Blanco.

Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.