The Jindal administration has criticized the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East for enriching trial attorneys, acting without state approval and offering inadequate public notice before the authority sued oil, gas and pipeline companies for damage to coastal wetlands.

Take a look at documents provided by the Flood Protection Authority and decide for yourself.

Attorney’s fees

As widely reported, the contract between the Flood Protection Authority and Jones, Swanson, Huddell and Garrison outlines how the firm will be paid.

Jones,Swanson will get nothing if the Flood Protection Authority loses. If it wins, the firm will get:

  • 32.5 percent of the first $100 million

  • 27.5 percent of anything between $100 million and  $300 million

  • 22.5 percent of anything over $300 million

In addition, the firm would be able to recover all expenses and fees, which are detailed in the contract.

The contract also spells out a special provision enabling the firm to collect attorney’s fees if the levee authority withdraws the suit. This “poison pill,” as described by John Barry, vice president of the authority, is meant to insulate board members and their successors from political pressure.

Monday, Barry said that Jones, Swanson has agreed to another stipulation: If talks begun last with the Jindal administration result in an out-of-court settlement,  the law firm will be paid by the oil industry. Its fee will be decided by an arbitrator.

Public notice

The authority provided the minutes for the board’s June 14 meeting to rebut the Jindal’s accusation the board didn’t provide public notice that it was hiring outside attorneys and that it was filing suit.

The minutes include a resolution to hire Jones, Swanson, which passed unanimously. The resolution states that the levee authority has suffered damages due to coastal land loss and that it was hiring the law firm to represent “regarding claims for damages due to land loss and erosion.”

It doesn’t explicitly say that the firm would file a lawsuit, nor did it say who the defendants were. It does, however, outline the range of fees that the firm would received.

The minutes show no discussion of that item, and Barry said he couldn’t recall if there was any.

Approval of outside law firm

The authority has also released a letter from the state Attorney General’s Office in response to the Jindal administration’s contention that the authority was not authorized to hire outside counsel and file a suit, as required by state law.

In that letter, Assistant Attorney General Richard L. McGimsey writes that he had reviewed the authority’s resolution and the fee arrangement, and they complied with state law. He stated that the Attorney General’s Office does not decide whether an agency should pursue legal action or against whom.

However, opponents of the suit said at a hearing last week that the Attorney General’s Office did not see or approve the contract. The Flood Protection Authority’s attorney, T. Robert Lacour, said the Attorney General’s Office told him only to provide the resolution authorizing the hiring, not the contract itself.

Review documents

Bob Marshall

From 2013 to 2017, Bob Marshall covered environmental issues for The Lens, with a special focus on coastal restoration and wetlands. While at The Times-Picayune, his work chronicling the people, stories...