- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

LIVINGSTON, La. (AP) - A state judge has ordered Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks to pay the legal bills of two parish council members sued personally for allegedly defamatory comments they made about his former employer and his current executive assistant.

A judge ruled Thursday the parish president has a duty to follow resolutions the Parish Council passes and cannot selectively enforce or ignore them.

Ricks tells The Advocate (https://bit.ly/1zQQB2g) he will appeal the ruling.

Alvin Fairburn & Associates, where Layton Ricks worked before taking office in 2012, and former council clerk Mary Kistler, who now works for the parish president, sued council members Marshall Harris and Cindy Wale Franz in 2013 for comments they made for a WBRZ-TV report. The report claimed Kistler had changed the wording of a resolution to allow the firm to bill for work the council had not authorized.

Fairburn and Kistler seek damages from Harris and Wale Franz personally, not from the parish. But the Parish Council twice resolved to pay the two council members’ legal bills, saying they were acting as public officials when they gave the interviews.

Ricks repeatedly has refused to pay those bills, citing an Oct. 7, 2013, state attorney general’s opinion that suggested withholding payment until a judge ruled that Harris and Wale Franz were acting in their official capacity as council members.

The Parish Council sued Ricks in late September, seeking a writ of mandamus - a court order compelling a public official to act - that would require him to pay the bills.

Council Chairman Ricky Goff said Thursday it was a “sad day” for Livingston Parish government “that we had to go to this extreme to get this ruling.”

Goff said he hoped Ricks would not appeal the decision because it could pave the way for the parish to settle another pair of lawsuits between the parish and Fairburn, stemming from a dispute over the firm’s contract and billing for road engineering work.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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