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Council approves attorney fees, despite recommendation

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GONZALES - A vote to pay attorney fees to a company following a lawsuit with Gonzales is raising some eyebrows.

The issue stems back to a lawsuit with a contractor who was hired to build the spray pad at Jambalaya Park in Gonzales. The city stopped paying Quality Design and Construction because it wasn't pleased with the work, but after a lawsuit, a judge awarded the company more than $51,000 and attorney fees.

A law passed three years ago allows judges to order cities to pay judgments, but can't force cities to pay attorney fees.

"I can't get a judge to order the payment of the attorney's fees, the way he awarded the principal and the interest," said Scott Frazier, Quality Design's attorney speaking at the recent council meeting.

The city attorney recommended the council revisit the issue with a judge who could then decide if the fees should be paid and how much, but councilman Terance Irvin, Gary Lacombe, and Timothy Vessel decided to approve a motion to pay the fees up to $41,000.

"Let's go back to court, whatever the judge says I'm for," said councilman Kenny Matassa, who was against the payment. "Mr. Lacombe didn't see it that way, he jumped up made a motion at first to pay 37,000 of tax payers dollars for attorney's fees, and then he changed when they said they had bills up to $42,000, he amended that to $42,000 of tax payers money, right after he had just cut the budget for public safety in the hundreds of thousands of dollars."

"For me if we owe people money, we need to pay the money that we owe," said Councilman Lacombe.

Councilman Irvin argued that his vote would save the city money in the long run.

"My purpose was to stop the invoicing, I think the invoicing would have continued," said Councilman Irvin.

Now the council is hoping to pursue a counter suit against the company, though the city attorney said they may have lost leverage by approving the fees.


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