Council presses for legal counsel
The Crowley City Council met for regularly scheduled committee meetings on Wednesday of this week. Although the council discussed many heated topics on a various subject matters, the absence of legal council was an ongoing issue.
Currently, City Attorney Tom Regan is out on medical leave. At last month’s meeting the council requested a temporary attorney be hired to replace Regan until he returns.
During Wednesday night’s meetings, it became clear that Councilwomen Kim Stringfellow was not only asking for a temporary city attorney, but also additional legal counsel for dealing specifically with blighted homes.
The council members expressed their combined concern over the amount of paperwork being held up in legal and said they feel that a lawyer hired to deal only with the blighted properties could speed up the process of condemnation for the hundred plus blighted homes across the city.
It was during the Insurance and Personnel Committee Meeting that Stringfellow amended the agenda to include:
• Hire a temporary city attorney until Regan can return from medical leave.
• Hire a permanent attorney to deal with blighted houses.
• Discuss the recent lawsuit filed by the Crowley Fire and Police Civil Service Board.
It was at this point of the meeting that Mayor Tim Monceaux divulged that the agenda does not need to be amended for the temporary attorney request, that he had, in fact, already hired Woody Woodruff.
Woodruff currently serves as an assistant district attorney in Vermilion Parish and is the former general counsel/risk manager for Vermilion Parish School Board.
Monceaux explained that Regan is aware of the temporary attorney being hired.
Next, the conversation shifted to discussing hiring an attorney for blighted property.
Monceaux explained, “You have an attorney already, you have a civil attorney, you have a city attorney in which you have already voted on, he is your attorney.”
Stringfellow explained to Monceaux that she wanted to discuss it with the full council, and asked why they could not have that conversation about the “huge problem with blighted houses.”
She asked how many houses had been condemned since January (when the current administration took office), ultimately getting the answer of “none.”
Stringfellow again brought up the absence of legal counsel.
“I believe we need that since that we are in October and have been working on this since January and we aren’t getting anywhere,” she said. “Not to pass the buck on anyone, but every time I try to get somewhere with it, I am told, ‘Well, legal has it on their desk and we are hitting walls.’
“We need a more answers and I think it can be temporary for us to have an attorney just to deal with the blighted houses, that’s all I am saying. I think we need more pro-action on this issue because my two main objectives in Crowley are the crime and the blighted houses.”
Monceaux explained that the process has began and that Woodruff has already helped with some blighted properties.
Stringfellow responded by suggesting to Monceaux that “after Mr. Regan is on his feet, perhaps Mr. Woodruff can exclusively deal with the blighted houses issue as there are hundreds of blighted homes in the city.”
She said one of the major problems with the number of blighted houses is that it is inhibiting such things as economic development, building a pavilion, having money to do a marquee on the Rice Theater. “More pro-action is needed,” she said.
Monceaux reiterated that progress has begun clearing blighted properties.
“Is it more of a problem with someone in capacity of an attorney doing their job, or is it a matter of the person who is an attorney making sure that the process that we follow is taken care of?” asked Alderman Jeff Cavell.
Monceaux directed the question to Regan to answer the question.
Stringfellow interjected that, because the city council is comprised of mostly new members, it would be in the best interest of the council and the city to have an attorney present at committee meetings.
Monceaux explained he asked Woodruff to attend the meeting but he was unable to. He will be attending the regular session meeting scheduled for next week, the mayor added.
Alderman Clint Cradeur warned that, since Woodruff is the legal counsel for another municipality (Kaplan), he may not have the time to “nearly exclusively focus on the city of Crowley’s blight problem.”
Monceaux assured the council the condemnation of houses is moving forward.
Cavell said the council is frustrated, but added that it appears that Monceaux has done his job in making sure the process, once everything is cleared legally, will be taking place — albeit taking place at a reduced rate.
“But it is still not getting done and the reason is because it is held up at legal,” he said. “The city attorney works for the city and if a special attorney is not hired for blight, then Mr. Regan needs a time frame.”
Monceaux said he is trying to add an assistant attorney.