Outgoing Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson got out one step ahead of her detractors today, issuing her resignation before a scheduled Wednesday vote by the Metro Council on whether to hold a termination hearing.
Batson’s resignation leads to this question: What happens next? Will those council members who were pushing for her removal now state their concerns, or simply allow her to exit? Perhaps more important, who will they appoint to replace her?
It appears Batson will be able to leave quietly. Council members say they likely won’t push for discussion on the matter at Wednesday’s meeting because it’s a moot point. Councilman LaMont Cole, who requested the termination hearing, has not responded to requests for comment.
Instead, Wednesday’s meeting will see the council take up an item, sponsored by Erika Green and Tara Wicker, to have city prosecutor Anderson Dotson temporarily appointed to replace Batson. Whether the council votes on the matter isn’t known.
Either way, this won’t be the last you hear about the parish attorney’s office.
Councilman Chandler Loupe says he plans to sponsor an amendment to the city-parish Plan of Government to move the parish attorney’s office under the purview of the mayor, so it would only have to answer to one boss, rather than a 12-member council.
“The council needs to consider moving the office under the authority of the mayor,” Loupe says. “12 bosses versus one boss.”
He also wants to consider privatizing parts of the office.
Loupe was one of the few Republican council members siding with Democrats in supporting Batson’s removal hearing. He says employees in the parish attorney’s office had contacted him with concerns about Batson’s leadership. Republican Councilman Trae Welch also said he has “concerns about things that have happened” within the office.
Other Republicans, however, blasted the effort to remove Batson, who they laud as a knowledgeable attorney and an asset to the city-parish.
“I hate to see it happen,” councilman Scott Wilson says of her resignation. “Lea Anne was one of the most knowledgeable parish attorneys we’ve had in 25 years.”
“I expected fellow council members to be supportive of a competent attorney to take us through the storm of lawsuits we have going on,” adds councilman Matt Watson.
Both Wilson and Watson denounced the effort as having little to do with Batson’s performance, instead calling it a backdoor, politically motivated stunt.