KILLIAN – Town Council members are at odds over how they should who they should hire as the next legal counsel.
Former town attorney Brian Abels – – an attorney with the Denham Springs firm Boyer, Hebert, Abels & Angelle, LLC – withdrew his firm and his nominee Blake Harris from consideration after the council could not get a second on Paul Canik’s motion to hire Harris at the July 10 meeting.
“I’m disappointed in the council’s inaction,” Bock said. “The council is elected to do public business in an upfront, astute, manner, but once again they refused to due diligence and follow the letter of the law. To abstain from a vote on this was a public disservice.”
Councilman Blaine LaMarie countered with the nomination of attorney Cheryl Sibley, but Bock would not act on the recommendation.
“I find that this candidate would not be appropriate for this position and I don’t think this should be done because I find that a town attorney should not be someone directly from our community with preconceived notions of what’s right and who’s right,” Bock said. “I feel it would be right to have someone who is not from here and maybe just from a little way down the road without all these long-term ties and preconceived notions of how a town should run its business.”
Council member Gillis Windham disagreed with Bock that he has the authority to nominate an attorney. Bock said the Lawrason Act allows him to declare two rights – to declare an emergency and nominate an attorney.
Windham said he and the other council members – Jerry “J.J.” Barnum, Brian Binkley and Blaine LeMarie – considered Sibley the suitable replacement for Abels.
“Blake Harris is a fine young man, but Cheryl has been wanting the job for a long time,” Windham said. “She would do a fine job.”
Windham, who served five terms as mayor, questioned the need to hire an attorney for a town of 1,100.
“Going without at a town attorney is no big deal at all – I did it for 16 years,” he said. “Having a town attorney is a luxury.”
Abels said in an email he sent the town July 12 that he withdrew Harris’s name “to avoid any further conflict.”
A proposal Abels submitted to the council would have charged a straight $125 per hour for all work from Harris, including attendance at meetings. Harris would bill for travel time and mileage.
“This is still a great rate for the town and I don’t think y’all will get any attorney to do it for less,” Abels said in an email to the town, dated June 20.
Abels attended meetings and court for a flat rate of $150 and an hourly rate of $105 for other works.
“These were my rates 10 years ago and I have never asked for an increase because I know the town’s financial condition,” he said in the email. “I also didn’t charge for my travel time to and from meetings and court, nor do I charge mileage.”
Abels relinquished his post as town attorney June 30. He held the post 15 years.
Abels said in a letter to the town that the increased workload from additional cases in a growing law firm prompted his resignation.
He said his law firm has grown from four attorneys with a small group of clients to 12 attorneys and “a client list too long to enumerate.”
“My practice has also changed to an almost 100 percent focus on litigation; the deadlines that accompany that litigation simply make it impossible to serve the town as it needs,” Abels said in the email dated June 20. “As most of you know, my mom’s family is from Killian and I am from Springfield, so this was not an easy decision.”
Abels will continue to work as the town magistrate. He will work for a flat rate of $150.