Last Modified: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 10:51 AM
Judge Clayton Davis on Monday refused to enforce a $21 million settlement between a local construction firm and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana.
In 2006, Meyer and Associates filed a lawsuit alleging the tribe had breached a contract “for various professional services” which both sides entered into in 2001.
According to the Tribal Council, Chairman Lovelin Poncho settled with Meyer and Associates without the consent of the other members of the four-person council.
Meyer claims that the chairman has the authority to settle on behalf of the council. Thus, the settlement should be enforced. However, the Tribal Council disagrees. The council said the chairman was sent to meet with Meyer and attorneys for “talks” but never to come up with an agreement on their behalf.
The court heard testimony from various tribe members and the chairman Monday morning during the two-hour hearing.
“This hasn’t been done the right way,” Davis said. “I’m not going to approve a settlement that the council is not going to ratify or agree to.”
Meyer plans to appeal the ruling.
In January 2003, the Tribal Council passed a resolution, giving the chairman authority to enter all necessary agreements to develop an electric-power generating station, which would generate long-term revenue for the tribe.
Meyer claims the resolution addressed the authority of the chairman or his designee to waive sovereign immunity on agreements.
However, during testimony Poncho stated that he often gets approval by the Tribal Council for “political reasons.” Other tribal members said in their testimony that they would not allow the chairman to agree to a settlement of that magnitude. The current Chairman Poncho even submitted an affidavit in support of Meyer.
In the petition for breach of contract, Meyer claimed the firm sustained “enormous economic and commercial damage” including loss of profit, libel damages and damage to reputation.
According to the suit, Meyer “invested vast sums of money and resources, with excellent progress being made in furtherance of the Power Project.”
The purpose of the hearing was to decide whether the settlement was valid — not whether a settlement is warranted.