Council chairs seek to clarify M-P’s request for AG opinion on interim appointment

Mayor-President Josh Guillory at a council meeting
In his letter to the AG, Guillory does not mention he is in rehab. The councils’ letter adds that context explicitly, asking the AG to consider the circumstances in issuing an opinion on an interim replacement. Photo by Travis Gauthier

The gist: Just days after Mayor-President Josh Guillory asked the attorney general to weigh in on whether the council chairs can appoint an interim M-P while he is in rehab, the councils are seeking to clarify his request in their own letter to the AG. 

Get caught up, quickly. As The Current first reported July 27, both city and parish council members have been weighing an interim appointment over the administration’s objections. At issue is whether Guillory is “unavailable” while away in rehab and should cede authority to an acting mayor-president per Lafayette’s Home Rule Charter. 

Is the mayor-president “available”? That remains the central question raised by the M-P’s absence and the pair of letters sent to the AG. 

Guillory asked for an AG opinion last week after leaving for a 21-day in-patient treatment program for alcohol and PTSD. He claimed the request itself was proof of his “availability” to execute his duties as M-P. 

The charter requires council chairs to appoint a council member from either council to service temporarily if the mayor-president is “absent from and unavailable to Lafayette Parish for more than 48 hours.” If Guillory were to be away for more than 30 days, the office would be considered vacated, unless the councils vote to approve an extension.

Both council chairs made the followup request. City Council Chair Nanette Cook and Parish Council Chair AB Rubin wrote Attorney General Jeff Landry Tuesday to “assert clarification and appropriate context to some of the established facts and analyses” in Guillory’s original request. City Council Vice Chairman Glenn Lazard, an attorney, also signed the letter. 

Guillory did not acknowledge that he is in rehab in his letter. His request only notes that he would be physically absent for the next two weeks. The councils’ letter adds that context explicitly, asking the AG to consider the circumstances in issuing an opinion.

“Without disregarding sensitivity to the circumstances … it is widely known that the Mayor-President is currently receiving inpatient treatment for alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder at an unknown facility in Texas,” they write. (The Daily Advertiser has been reporting that the facility is in Texas.)

“Please carefully consider the factors provided,” they continue, before asking that the AG forward them his expedited opinion. “We join the Mayor-President in anticipating receipt of your expedited response.”

They further question whether his access to the internet/technology is sufficient to do his job and meet citizens’ “ordinary and understood expectation” of their mayor-president’s availability. 

“[No] supporting information has been provided to the councils by LCG legal counsel or CAO to allow councils to make an independent determination of his availability as stated in his original request for an opinion,” the chairs write. 

The administration has pushed back on the effort to name a temporary replacement. Chief Legal Officer Greg Logan warned the councils that appointing an interim M-P would be illegal and leave them subject to a $500 per day fine and six months in jail, or both. 

“It is my duty as your lawyer to let you know about relevant laws,” Logan wrote in an email last week. “Further, as your attorney, it is my legal advice that you do not proceed on this course.”

Both Cook and Lazard told The Current last week that they disagree with Logan on this issue.

Why this matters: The councils’ letter sticks them in line for a response from the AG. Without it, Guillory could have withdrawn his request should the opinion be unfavorable to his position.