LCG legal fees spike 40% under Guillory, among problems dogging Boulet’s start

City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan took in more than $700,000 during M-P Josh Guillory's final year in office. Photo by Travis Gauthier

Four months into her tenure, Mayor-President Monique Blanco Boulet is still dealing with the lingering effects of her predecessor Josh Guillory, and past government spending, including a major spike in legal fees, is taking a lead role. 

Since taking office, Boulet has rolled back a handful of plans and proposals set in motion by the former M-P that she says lacked meaningful financial analysis. But new info released alongside Lafayette Consolidated Government’s annual audit this week shows that Guillory’s spending spree wasn’t limited to flashy projects. 

During his single term, Guillory increased LCG’s spending on legal fees by more than 40%, topping out at more than $4.3 million last year, according to a letter by auditors Kolder, Slaven & Co. That’s a roughly $1.2 million increase from the year before Guillory took office, when LCG under M-P Joel Robideaux spent $3.1 million on lawyers. 

Boulet’s city-parish attorney, Pat Ottinger, who previously served under City-Parish President Joey Durel, recently told The Advocate that LCG is dealing with 150 pending lawsuits, though almost half stem from car accidents involving employees. That’s not an excessive number, Ottinger said, and the numbers seem to back that up. Guillory wasn’t any more likely to get LCG sued than his predecessors and fell below Durel but above former M-P Joel Robideaux for the number of lawsuits started while in office. 

Where Guillory did stand out is how much he spent on those lawsuits and on legal counsel in general, which Boulet criticized as “management by litigation.”

City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan was the biggest taker in Guillory’s final year, bringing in more than $700,000 (another lawyer in his firm, Mark Stipe, billed $150,000); followed by Becker & Hebert, $498,000; Gibson Law Partners, $400,000; Oats & Marino, $395,000; Neuner Pate, $362,000; and Paul Escott, $338,000. Becker & Hebert was the highest earner in 2019 under Robideaux, billing $600,000. View the full list for fiscal years 2023 and 2019 here

In Boulet’s report on her first 100 days in office, released Thursday, the new M-P put an emphasis on “restoring legal credibility” following years of high-profile litigation at City-Parish Hall under her predecessor, who notably sued a comedian, a City Council attorney and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among others, during his four years in office. 

“[We] entered office with a commitment to restoring credibility to our legal environment,” Boulet wrote. “The cost of management by litigation was threatening the foundation of LCG.”

City-Parish Attorney Pat Ottinger, CFO Karen Fontenot and MP Monique Blanco Boulet
City-Parish Attorney Pat Ottinger, with CFO Karen Fontenot and Mayor-President Monique Blanco Boulet at her 100-day press conference Thursday, said no decision has been made on whether LCG’s legal fees under former M-P Josh Guillory will be audited. Boulet has called Guillory’s approach to governing “management by litigation.”

Ottinger, who attended the press conference alongside Boulet and CFO Karen Fontenot, told reporters no decision had been made on whether LCG would undertake an audit of legal fees under the Guillory administration. 

Boulet distributed her first 100-day report just two days after auditors revealed new issues created under Guillory, and both the report and her subsequent press conference were dominated by issues she inherited from him. 

“The way I see it, it’s our job to understand where we sit today with all of the projects and issues and concerns and then figure out the healthiest path forward for the city and the parish,” Boulet said at Thursday’s briefing. 

“We’d like to land everything, just to stabilize it, calm it down and … to have it in a good position that doesn’t threaten us financially or flood-wise or anything else,” she added. “So, does it take us six months? Does it take us a whole year, some people say? I don’t want to spend a whole year doing this. It’s kind of clean-up work, but the reality is we’ve got to stabilize all of these things.”

The report recaps Boulet’s early responses to her leftovers from Guillory, like the decision to shelve his plan to move City Court, the revival of Lafayette’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and efforts to rein in LCG’s high-profile lawsuits from the Guillory era. But more notably, it outlines several key challenges that are front of mind for Boulet and her staff, even as they try to put Guillory’s legacy in the rearview mirror. 

“We are starting to see the light. I think the staff is. We are deep in it, but I think the go forward conversation, which I’m excited about, is really a revitalization and rebuilding of Lafayette,” she added Thursday.

Those challenges primarily center on major financial hurdles yet to be cleared by the local government, including rural fire protection, unfunded raises for fire and police employees, and Guillory’s signature Bayou Vermilion Flood Control drainage project, which has Boulet’s crew looking at spending another $10 to $20 million on finishing the project to unlock tens of millions of dollars in reimbursements from the state. Her inclusion of those issues as “inherited challenges” in the report positions them to figure prominently into her first budget proposal as mayor-president, which is expected in July.