Yesterday afternoon, the I-20 Economic Development Corporation’s Board of Directors took action in open session to execute a contract with an Alexandria law firm to represent them in ongoing litigation. Steve Oxenhandler, of Gold WeemsBruser Sues & Rundell, will be paid for hours billed since November 17, 2015. Also, any actions taken or filings made on behalf of the board since that time will be ratified.
See here the document.
Notable in the contract was this clause:
Clients expressly recognize that any estimate of total fees and expenses to be incurred in connection with the representation, which may be given in the initial interview or otherwise, is nothing more than a good faith guess and that the actual fees and expenses ultimately incurred may bear no relation to the estimate.
The vote to hire Oxenhandler came after a 45-minute executive session to discuss the terms, and after items four through seven on the agenda were passed over.
The board first voted to hire Oxenhandler in an executive session on 11/17/15, according to the minutes of that meeting. However, as that action may have been illegal, the board took the action yesterday in open session.
According to a 12/23/15 Ouachita Citizen article by Zach Parker, Oxenhandler had even billed the board some $6 thousand prior to the 11/17 secret vote.
Chisley continued to deny that the board tagged Oxenhandler to represent them in the 11/17 closed session, according to a Bob Lenox story in today’s News Star.
Lenox quoted Chisley, “On that particular night, we did not know whether we were going to engage Mr. Oxenhandler. We talked about the situation, we discussed it, but we didn’t have a contract, so therefore we could not enter into a contractual agreement.”
City Attorney Nanci Summersgill has in the middle of the negotiations to hire Oxenhandler, even though she apparently does not represent the board, but actually is paid by the City of Monroe. It is unknown if Summersgill’s actions represent a conflict of interest, which is prohibited by Louisiana’s Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys.
Here is the original lawsuit against the board.