City could sidestep mediation and pay legal fees anyway

Published 10:02 am Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Since last year, a group of people whom Langston Adams represented in a 2013 lawsuit against the city have been seeking legal fees.

At present, the two sides are in court-approved mediation with Greg Thompson, a Beaumont-based attorney and mediator.

Now, despite the fact that the mediation is ongoing, some on the Port Arthur City Council are seeking to pay $48,000 to Reginald Trainer, Efrain Avendano, Paul Hulin and Herman Leginston, Adams’ attorneys.

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Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis said last Monday, during the council’s executive session, the council worked out a deal to set aside $48,000 in special funding to pay the plaintiffs. This required a budget amendment, which passed. Now he expects the payment to go before the council for approval at the June 20 meeting and he hopes it will pass.

To be sure, this is a discounted price from the $50,737 the plaintiffs sought in November. Lewis said he believes the discount reflects the mediation and he said the deal is done.

“Well, what happened was, the city attorney, not this past time, but she came back after mediation, she said she thought she could get him down to $48,000,” he said.

The legal fees have already raised questions because they include time the plaintiffs spent talking, in private, with Lewis, contrary to legal best practices. However, Lewis said those fees had been waived and that’s why the fee was lower.

“He took that out,” Lewis said. “That portion that he interviewed council members, he took that out. That’s why it came down to the $48,000.”

But Lewis also admitted he had not been party to the mediation process. He said he didn’t know Thompson’s name.

“They been in mediation with somebody, I don’t know who it was,” he said.

Nevertheless, he asserted he knows the details of the mediation and he thinks the payments will be passed.

“We’ve always had enough votes to pass it,” he said. “We’ve always had enough votes. We were just going along to see if anything else can be worked out. We’ve always had the votes to pass it.”

But Val Tizeno, the city’s attorney, said the mediation process is not at all over.

She could not speak to the terms of the mediation as all of that was done behind closed doors. However, she did confirm that any suggestion that the mediation had finished is not correct.

“We’re still in an informal mediation process and it’s confidential,” she said.

Tizeno said she couldn’t give a timetable when it could wrap.

“We will do it in an expeditious and professional manner,” she said.

Lewis has in the past pushed for the city to simply pay the fees and Councilman Osman Swati believes he knows why.

“Langston does not want this bill to get into open court and see council members names all over this bill. There are so many ethical violations on both sides, on Langston’s side and on the side of the councilmembers,” he said.

However, unlike Lewis, while Councilman Harold Doucet’s name is also on the bill, Doucet was not on the council when he consulted with the plaintiffs who were suing the city.

Adams is an attorney and any ethical violation could put him at odds with the state’s bar association.

Swati said he thinks the mediation could drag on or go back into open court.

“They don’t want to go back to Judge Donald Floyd’s court,” Swati said.

For now, all of that could be moot if the council votes to simply pay the $48,000 next week, though he said he hopes Doucet and Lewis both recuse themselves from the vote because of their connection to the case.

In the meantime, Swati said any resident concerned with this possibility should call his or her councilperson.

“The citizens can voice their concerns with their council members to stand against paying someone on the directions of council members who are directly involved with this person,” he said. “There is no if ands or buts these peoples names are on his bill. They were talking to him during this case.”