Judge rules in favor of Alexandria City Council in 2021-2022 city budget lawsuit

On Friday, Sept. 15, Judge Patricia Koch ruled in favor of the five Alexandria City Council...
On Friday, Sept. 15, Judge Patricia Koch ruled in favor of the five Alexandria City Council members named in a lawsuit stemming from a veto-override vote that happened on May 4, 2021.(KALB)
Published: Sep. 18, 2022 at 5:38 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2022 at 6:08 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - On Friday, Sept. 15, 9th Judicial District Court Judge Patricia Koch ruled in favor of five Alexandria City Council members named in a lawsuit stemming from a veto-override vote over the city’s budget that happened on May 4, 2021.

On April 20, 2021, the city council amended the mayor’s proposed 2021 budget for the city, which allotted an additional $2 million to be used for APD officer pay raises and recruitment efforts. The amendments also defunded the city’s Public Safety Commissioner position’s $113,000 salary. Days later, Mayor Jeff Hall vetoed the amended budget on April 27. A two-thirds majority of the council was needed to override that veto, which was accomplished on May 4, 2021, in a 5-2 vote with members Catherine Davidson, Cynthia Perry, Gerber Porter, Jim Villard, and Reddex Washington voting in favor of the override. Councilmen Chuck Fowler and Lee Rubin voted against it.

In response to the veto-override, on May 5, 2021, the City of Alexandria and Mayor Hall filed a civil suit in the 9th Judicial District Court in Rapides Parish against the five members of the Alexandria City Council that voted in favor of the override. The lawsuit claimed that the actions of the city council violated the Alexandria Home Rule Charter, as well as the Louisiana Budgetary Act.

This past Friday, Judge Koch granted the Motion for Summary Judgement filed on behalf of the five council members named in the lawsuit, dismissing claims made by the city administration in the May 4, 2021 lawsuit. The ruling means the trial for the matter that was set for October has been removed from the docket.

In the same hearing, Judge Koch denied a Motion for Summary Judgement filed by District 5 Councilman Chuck Fowler on Dec. 13, 2021. Fowler filed a motion for leave to file a cross-claim that lists him as the plaintiff against five other members of the council over the city’s budget. A cross-claim is a lawsuit filed by a defendant against other defendants.

The rulings from Judge Koch essentially mean that she does not believe the city council members named in the lawsuits violated the Alexandria Home Rule or the Louisiana Budgetary Act when they amended the budget and voted to override Mayor Hall’s veto of it.

City Council President Catherine Davidson released a statement on social media that reads in part:

“After more than 16 months and more than $250,000 in taxpayer-funded attorneys’ fees, this ruling confirms the actions of the 5 City Council members amending the 2021-2022 budget to add $2 million for APD raises and moving the $113,000 from the Public Safety Commissioner position to recruiting is squarely within the authority of the City Council.”

Mayor Hall sent this response:

“We respectfully disagree with the judge’s decision. There is no dispute the budget the City Council adopted in April of 2021 was not balanced, forcing me to take action. At that time, Judge Koch advised the City Council members to revise the budget and they ultimately voted to correct the errors they made. As Mayor, I have a responsibility to ensure the budget is balanced, the Charter is followed and the Budget Act is complied with, and ultimately that was achieved. It is unfortunate that it took legal action to get the City Council to correct its errors. As far as an appeal, we are reviewing our options.”

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