Hancock County

Bay council rejects $10,000 bill from ousted city attorney

Bay St. Louis City Attorney Donald Rafferty speaks at the Bay St. Louis City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015.
Bay St. Louis City Attorney Donald Rafferty speaks at the Bay St. Louis City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. SUN HERALD

The City Council on Tuesday rejected a nearly $10,000 bill submitted by former city attorney Donald Rafferty for services he said he provided the city in August, the month after the council terminated his contract.

On a motion by Councilman Mike Favre and seconded by Councilman Doug Seal, the council voted 6-0 to deny payment to Rafferty.

“It was known his contract expired the last day of July,” Favre said. “I ask that (the bill) be taken out of the docket of claims.”

Rafferty submitted an invoice Sept. 1 for 39.6 hours of service at a rate of $250 per hour, totaling $9,900. Among other things, his claimed services included conferences with the mayor, telephone calls and preparing files for transfer to new city attorney Trent Favre.

Aside from Favre’s brief comments, the council spent little time discussing the issue before bringing it to a vote.

Neither the mayor nor Rafferty, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said anything at the time the issue came up.

For years, Rafferty operated without a contract but under the impression he was an appointed member of Mayor Les Fillingame’s administration with his employment coinciding with the mayor’s four-year term.

In late February, however, the council took steps to draft and approve a city attorney contract following the recommendation of the State Auditor Office’s performance and review report. According to the report, the city had never established a legal department under its form of government, therefore a contractual agreement was required by law. Rafferty signed the short-term contract set to expire June 30.

In June, the council decided to not renew Rafferty’s contract but gave him a 30-day extension that expired July 30.

Then in mid-July, the council drafted and approved a revised city attorney contract that contained a Hancock County residency requirement. This effectively prevented Rafferty from future qualification because he lives in Harrison County.

However, Rafferty and Fillingame asserted Rafferty’s initial contract was improper to begin with. Under this assertion, Rafferty refused to vacate his seat.

In response, the council simply stopped paying him, and at an August meeting, Councilman Lonnie Falgout ordered Rafferty to get up from the city attorney’s chair and join the audience as a spectator.

Those moves came after years of heated, and often public, disputes between several council members and Rafferty, whom they saw as serving the interests of the mayor over the interests of the council. When Councilman Joey Boudin became council president earlier this year, he ordered Rafferty to sit on the other side of the room from the mayor during meetings.

Rafferty still works as the city prosecutor.