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Alexandria council moves toward paying settlement

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — The Alexandria City Council has indicated its willingness to pay more than $1.3 million to a Baton Rouge attorney for work he did in the city's lawsuit against Cleco.

But the City Charter won't allow a payment to be made as quickly as a federal judge would like.

City Attorney Chuck Johnson tells The Town Talk (http://townta.lk/XzQIOP ) he is trying to make arrangements that will satisfy the judge.

The council voted 4-3 on Tuesday to authorize Johnson to proceed with the payment attorney H. Craig Davidson.

Voting to authorize Johnson to proceed were Chuck Fowler, Harry Silver, Jim Villard and Lee Rubin. Voting against were Mitzi LaSalle, Ed Larvadain III and Jules Green.

The action comes in the wake of a federal court order issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Dee Drell that the city had five business days to pay Davidson or else representatives of the U.S. Marshal's Office would seize the funds from Alexandria's Utility System Enterprise Fund.

The 4-3 vote on Tuesday did not actually authorize the payment. The council will vote on that on Sept. 2.

However, the resolution and introduction of an ordinance to settle the matter show "good faith" that Johnson hopes will allow him to work out the details without the judge's five-day deadline coming into play. Mayor Jacques Roy said the council's approval shows intent to pay the judgment.

"The problem with the way the order is written is that it doesn't take the charter's delays for appropriation into account. There's no way that y'all can pass an ordinance in five days. This is not an emergency" that meets the definition of a crisis that would allow an emergency ordinance to be passed, Johnson told the council.

Davidson was hired in 2005 during the Mayor Ned Randolph's administration as one of the attorneys representing the city in a lawsuit alleging that Cleco, a Pineville-based utility company, had defrauded the city pay overcharging for electricity and other offenses.

Davidson and Baton Rouge attorney John M. Sharp were to split 20 percent of any money awarded as a result of the lawsuit. Neither of them was still involved in the lawsuit by the time the city settled the case in February 2010 by signing a new power supply agreement with a "settlement value" of about $50 million. Cleco never admitted any impropriety.

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Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, http://www.thetowntalk.com

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