Westlake gears up for lawsuit fight

By By Johnathan Manning / American Press

WESTLAKE — The City Council on Wednesday decided to hire an outside attorney to represent the city and a councilman in a lawsuit

filed by the city’s former chief administrative officer.

Lonnie Smart filed the suit in October, alleging that councilman Wally Anderson misrepresented statements by prosecutors and

law enforcement officers to get Smart’s position eliminated. An answer to the lawsuit has not yet been filed.

The council made the decision Wednesday at a special meeting. Mayor Dan Cupit and City Attorney John Van Norman declined to

comment. Smart, who is still an employee of Westlake, did not attend the meeting.

Anderson and fellow councilman John Cradure said they were looking forward to answering the lawsuit, but would give no further

comment. The two took allegations against Smart to authorities in mid-2012.

An audit released in March 2013 found that a “miscalculation” and the “incorrect recording” of hours worked led to Smart being

overpaid for compensatory overtime, but the city said he was in the process of paying the funds back.

Anderson and Cradure met with

representatives of the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office and

the Calcasieu Sheriff’s

Office in July 2012 to discuss allegations against Smart. The

lawsuit cites an email Anderson sent to the four other council

members on Oct. 26, 2012.

“It was a never a question of if Lonnie was going to be arrested and charged, it was a question of whether to do it then or

wait til after the State Audit was completed,” the lawsuit quotes the email as saying.

“The D.A. said during that meeting that

they had enough proof from the few things that we showed them that they

could arrest

him right then on Malfeasance in Office. The D.A., FBI and

Homeland Security, Sheriff’s office and the State Auditor ALL strongly

suggested that we get rid of Lonnie,” the email said.

The City Council unanimously voted on Oct. 31, 2012, to adopt a budget that cut the $49,000 in funding for the city’s chief

administrative officer, which was Smart’s position.

The lawsuit claims Anderson’s statements were “knowingly false,” “a reckless disregard for the truth” and “were made with

malice.”