Does Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome have legal standing to challenge the city of St. George incorporation?
Publisher and former state lawmaker Woody Jenkins, an advocate of the St. George effort, doesn’t think so and lays out his reasons in a front-page opinion piece in his new community newspaper, The St. George Leader.
In the article, which is making the rounds on social media among St. George supporters, Jenkins points out that under La. R.S. 33:4 an elected official of “the governing authority” of an area that might be adversely affected by a new incorporation has legal standing to contest it.
But Broome, he says, citing another passage in state law, does not represent the “governing authority” of East Baton Rouge Parish, which he says is the Metro Council.
Jenkins bases his argument on La. R.S. 42:1102 (11), which defines a governing authority as “the body which exercises the legislative functions of a political subdivision.”
“Ms. Pierson, the ‘governing authority’ of a municipality is a legislative body … not the mayor-president,” writes Jenkins, predicting Broome will be dismissed as a plaintiff from the suit. “Ms. Pierson failed to read the law or perhaps failed to understand the law. Her wonderful unpaid pro bono offer to represent the mayor in this matter is worth exactly what she is being paid—zero.”
Pierson is representing Broome and two other plaintiffs—Lewis Unglesby and M.E. Cormier—in their suit, filed Nov. 4, against St. George organizers Norman Browning and Chris Rials.
Responding to Jenkins’ claims, Pierson, who notes that Jenkins completed law school but never took the state bar exam, says they’re “grasping at straws.”
“What they really ought to be doing is coming up with a plan for their new city,” she says.
She acknowledges that while La. R.S. 42 defines the governing authority of a municipality as its legislative body, she says that chapter of the law was written to lay out the state code of governmental ethics and who is covered under it, not to define the roles of state and local elected officials.
What’s more, she notes that chapter 4 of the East Baton Rouge Parish Plan of Government clearly defines the mayor-president as CEO of the parish and, in chapter 2, gives the mayor-president veto power over the Metro Council.
“The mayor president has a specific legislative function, through veto power, which makes her an elected official of the governing authority,” Pierson says.
That said, chapter 2 of the plan of government, like the state law, defines the governing authority of the city and the parish as the Metro Council.
Might this be an issue that 19th Judicial District Court Judge William Morvant, who has been allotted the case, will have to settle?
Quite possibly, but Pierson says she’s not worried.
“It’s ludicrous to claim the mayor-president is not an elected official of the governing authority when she has direct power over the legislative process,” she says. “It’s a red herring.”