Fight to incorporate St. George goes before Appellate Court

“St. George organizers argued the will of the people voting in a lawful election should not be circumvented by only two individuals who do not live in the area to be incorporated.”

Those determined to create a separate city named St. George argued before the First Circuit Court of Appeal on Tuesday that a judge relied on unreliable testimony and circumvented the people’s will.

Those in support of St. George were trying to convince the First Circuit Court of Appeal to overrule District Judge Martin Coady’s ruling that blocked St. George’s incorporation in 2022.

In that ruling, Coady wrote St. George’s incorporation was “unreasonable.” He wrote that St. George would be unable to operate with a balanced budget and one negative effect of the new city would cost East Baton Rouge city-parish government tens of millions of dollars.

At that time, attorneys for Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and Metro Council leader Lamont Cole argued that the $48 million of tax revenue that St. George would collect would have hurt Baton Rouge.

The St. George organizers argued that the will of the people voting in a lawful election should not be circumvented by only two individuals who do not live in the area to be incorporated.

In the October 2019 election, 54 percent of the people voted in support of the incorporation. Broome and Cole filed a suit shortly after the election, challenging the incorporation.

Tuesday, Brett Furr, attorney for Broome and Cole, said Broome and Cole were not challenging the election results.

In 2018, Dr. James Richardson calculated that St. George would be operating in a deficit after his calculations rendered it would cost St. George $51,610,00 to run St. George and fund retirement services for St. George employees, according to court documents.

Court documents show the cost of retirement services at $8,900,000, according to Richardson’s calculations. The additional funding for retirement services would have left St. George with a deficit of $3 million on Day 1, Coady wrote.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the three-judge panel asked several questions pertaining to Richardson’s findings. EBR Parish Finance Director, Linda Hunt, found that pension liability would cost half as much as Richardson’s calculation. The corrected calculations would result in St. George operating at a surplus using the trial court’s methodology.

The judges hearing the appeal are Mitchell R. Theriot, Wayne Ray Chutz and Steven Miller, who will review the trial record and deliberate before rendering a verdict. The verdict could take up to 60 days.

For Coady’s ruling to be overturned, all three judges must vote in favor of reversing the trial court’s decision. A 2-1 decision will result in the panel appointing two additional judges to render a determination.

Following the decision, the party that the court rules against may appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court. However, The Supreme Court may deny the appeal.

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