NEW ORLEANS — A lawsuit filed against Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards over $4 million that is allegedly owned Attorney General Jeff Landry is the newest dispute between the two high-profile government officials.
Filed on April 11, Landry’s suit accused Edwards of refusing to transfer the funds owed. Landry claimed this was a political move, while Edwards alleged the attorney general's office had no legal rights to the funds. The money owed was the result of a 2014 pharmaceutical settlement and should have been put in an escrow account, the suit claims.
“I don’t know if there’s any real lawsuit,” Edward Chervenak, assistant professor of political science at the University of New Orleans, told the Louisiana Record. “My understanding is that it was done through the legislative process when they were doing the budget in the special session.”
Edwards tried to move the money during this special session and a budget deal stalled because Republican lawmakers demanded the funds be transferred, according to the Associated Press. The contention between Landry and Edwards is also reflective of the bigger divide between parties.
“Basically, the attorney general is the anti-governor,” Chervenak said. “He’s the main opponent to the governor because we have a Democratic governor in a Republican state. And so, there’s this built-in opposition by the Republicans to whatever John Bel Edwards is obviously doing.”
It’s not surprising that the governor and AG have accused each other of playing political games with the funds, Chervenak said.
“It's politics as usual and a political move,” Chervenak said. “The state faces serious financial difficulties and much bigger issues than this. The Republicans are just trying to show up John Bel Edwards.”
In September 2016, Edwards filed a lawsuit after he and Landry could not reach an agreement on contract language that would have protected LBGT state employees from discrimination. Two months later, Landry wanted an injunction blocking Edwards’ order to ban discrimination against the protected group. In December 2016, a Baton Rouge judge dismissed the case, holding that the legislature had voted down similar bills and Edwards’ order would have created a new law.
“It’s more taxpayer money being wasted in a court proceeding," Chervenak said. "Wasting taxpayer time is nothing new in Louisiana."