With Guillory away, Lafayette councils weigh appointment of acting M-P

City Parish Attorney Greg Logan and council members
City Parish Attorney Greg Logan, center, insists Guillory's absence does not make him "unavailable" per Lafayette's charter. Photo by Travis Gauthier

UPDATE: M-P Josh Guillory has asked AG Jeff Landry to weigh in on whether the councils can appoint an interim replacement. Read his request here.

The gist: Council members attempted to name an acting replacement for Mayor-President Josh Guillory while he’s in rehab. The administration resisted.

Both city and parish council members weighed an appointment over the administration’s objections. At issue is whether Guillory is “unavailable” and should cede authority to an acting mayor-president per Lafayette’s Home Rule Charter. Guillory announced this week he’s attending a 21-day inpatient program for alcohol and PTSD treatment.

The administration resisted. City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan emailed council members Wednesday morning acknowledging the replacement effort and offering a legal opinion against it. The effort appeared to be gaining support among council members Tuesday, a day after Guillory announced he was seeking help. While successful rehab often hinges on complete dedication to the program without outside distractions, Guillory and Logan have sought to assure the public that he has been granted exceptional privileges from the unnamed facility.

“I know there is some discussion regarding appointing an Interim Mayor-President by the Councils,” Logan wrote, advising them that such a move would violate Louisiana's Intrusion into Office Act and subject them to a $500 per day fine and six months in jail, or both. “It is my duty as your lawyer to let you know about relevant laws,” the attorney added. “Further, as your attorney, it is my legal advice that you do not proceed on this course.”

Logan says Guillory is available. He cited a 2011 legal opinion drafted for former M-P Joey Durel to argue that communication by phone, text or email is sufficient. The 2011 opinion concerned Durel’s authority to declare an emergency while out of state.

Uncharter-ed territory? Mayor-presidents have left the parish before, but this issue is nevertheless unusual. The charter requires council chairs to appoint a council member from either council to service temporarily if the mayor-president is “absent from and unavailable to Lafayette Parish for more than 48 hours.” If Guillory were to be away for more than 30 days, the office would be considered vacated, unless the councils vote to approve an extension. Nanette Cook chairs the City Council, and AB Rubin chairs the parish side.

Guillory lobbied Rubin by phone Tuesday, according to Logan’s email, obtained by Straight News Online. Logan told council members that Rubin “joined our daily call with the Mayor-President and was able to speak directly to him.” The Parish Council has generally backed Guillory and his administration, while the City Council has tussled with him, most recently scrutinizing his approach to several drainage projects.

Rubin did not return a phone call seeking comment. Parish Councilman Kevin Naquin, mentioned as a potential interim replacement, also did not return Straight News Online’s call.

“I respectfully disagree with the opinion issued by LCG legal counsel,” City Councilman Glenn Lazard tells Straight News Online. Cook and Lazard have led the City Council’s efforts to press the administration on legal problems with major drainage projects.

“My understanding of the charter is it requires us to move forward when the mayor is unavailable for 48 hours,” says Cook. “And what I understand about an inpatient facility is that when you’re going to do an inpatient program, you should be unavailable to your life, to the public, to get better. My concern is that he’s not getting the treatment that he really needs. And that’s what we hope for. This whole move to follow the charter is really to enable him to take the time he needs to address the issues that he’s having.” (Council members were notified Guillory had entered rehab only minutes before a press release was sent to media outlets.)

For Parish Councilman Josh Carlson the issue of availability isn’t settled. “I do not think he is unavailable, but I would like to pursue confirmation of his ability to communicate and his availability directly from the treatment center,” Carlson says, stipulating that he believes this can be done while protecting the M-P’s privacy. “We want to verify that you are as available as has been communicated.”