(Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 2:26 PM
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.”