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Judge to consider Leesville lawsuit

Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2014 10:16 AM

By Lauren Manary / American Press

LEESVILLE — A state district court judge on Thursday did not issue a ruling in Leesville’s lawsuit against two City Council members, but instead said he would take the case under advisement.

Leesville is seeking more than $120,000 in restitution from William “Mike” Elliott and Milton “Danny” Dowd, who the city says illegally opted in to the city’s employee health insurance plan for several years.

Judge H. Ward Fontenot on Thursday asked for briefs from both sides to be given to him within 15 days and said he would take the case under advisement after his review of the documents.

Dowd was enrolled in the employee self-insurance plan from 2003 to December 2010, when he voluntarily withdrew. Leesville Mayor Robert Rose testified that Elliott was enrolled in the plan from 2003 to May 2011, when the city cut off his health insurance after advising him to back out of the plan.

Defense attorney Howard Gist said Dowd and Elliott enrolled in the plan under legal circumstances because a health insurance line item had been included in each budget since the council members opted in. The defense argued that the nature of the case was political and said the city’s previous auditor found no issue with Elliott and Dowd’s receiving health insurance benefits. It was only after Rose took office and brought in a new auditor, Gist said, that anyone took issue with the two.

The city argues that public officials aren’t eligible for benefits because they aren’t full-time employees as dictated by the city charter. DeLain Prewitt, the city administrator when Dowd and Elliott enrolled, testified that the council members came to her in 2003, expressing interest in joining. City Attorney Joseph Bailey asked if she had the power to determine an individual’s eligibility.

“I don’t know if I did or didn’t,” she said. “There was nothing that said I didn’t have the authority.”

Prewitt said she believed the council members were eligible when she enrolled them in the plan in 2003.

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