Stevedores, Port of Lake Charles in court battle

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

A local law firm on Wednesday filed a motion for a partial summary judgment against the Port of Lake Charles on behalf of

Lake Charles Stevedores for more than $5.5 million.

Attorneys for Tom Flanagan, owner of Lake Charles Stevedores, allege the port misappropriated public funds by paying the prior

owners, Cooper T. Smith and Cavalair, $1.3 million to purchase the rights of the Lake Charles Stevedores.

The lawsuit was filed in March as a

result of the termination of their contract in 2011, when the Stevedores

had a long-term

contract for the unloading services at the City Docks. Flanagan

bought the contract a few years before, and the port decided

to cancel that contract.

“They had a right to cancel that contract, but in the event of cancellation, the contract required a payment of some liquidated

damages in the amount of about $5.6 million,” said Thomas Filo, Flanagan’s attorney.

The port informed Flanagan when it canceled the contract that it was not going to pay the liquidated damages because the port

had bought the right to the liquidated damages from Cooper and Cavalair.

Filo alleges in the lawsuit that the

defendants have caused Flanagan damages under the Louisiana Racketeering

Act for misappropriation

of funds.

District Judge Wilford Carter granted a partial summary judgment in July, stating that the transaction between Cooper and

Cavalair and the port was “invalid and ineffective.”

Louis Colletta, attorney for the port, said Carter’s judgment is “an interlocutory order,” which means it’s “temporary and

not a final judgment.”

Colletta said the port anticipates having the judgment reversed “when the case is tried on the merits by the appellate court

or Judge Carter himself.”

Colletta said that would entail the “cause issue” in that the port “had the right to terminate the contract for cause and

not owe any liquidated damages.”

Bill Rase, executive director of the port, said the lawsuit involves the cancellation of a contract that was not in the best

interest of the port or the residents of Southwest Louisiana.

“There has been no misappropriation of funds by the port as has been alleged by Mr. Flanagan, and there is no factual or legal

basis for this claim,” Rase said in a statement.

“In fact, the port has directed its

lawyers to seek the appropriate legal response to these false and

misleading allegations

should Mr. Flanagan refuse to voluntarily dismiss any claims

alleging misappropriation or criminal wrongdoing. As this case

moves through the judicial system this fact will be made clear.”

Rase said the port “intends to file its own motion for summary judgment regarding the contract at issue and looks forward

to the resolution of this case through the judicial system.”

The motion is set for hearing Oct. 23.