Court dismisses former Lafourche Parish administrator's case

By Takesha Thomas | Feb 13, 2019

A district court has granted a motion to dismiss filed by the former Lafourche Parish government, and also granted two counter motions filed by a former parish administrator.

U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier, for the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana, on Feb. 4 dismissed Lafourche Parish Government's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim filed against Reggie Bagala. Bagala, the former Parish Administrator for Lafourche Parish, was terminated in January 2017 after he allegedly refused to participate in making "polling" phone calls to various Lafourche Parish council members, court documents state. 

According to the filing, the November 2016 calls were upon the request of Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle regarding "a potential change in the Lafourche Parish employee health insurance contract." After calling two council members, Bagala claims he informed Cantrelle that he would not make any more calls because he believed the calls "violated the Louisiana Open Meetings Law."

In January 2017, Bagala was fired as Parish Administrator by Cantrelle. According to Bagala, who was later appointed onto the Lafourche Parish Council as the Legislative Auditor, his new salary is "substantially lower" with fewer benefits. 

Bagala filed suit against the parish and Cantrelle in January 2018, alleging that he was terminated in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights. Specifically, that Cantrelle infringed his freedom of speech after he spoke out.

In addition, Bagala alleged that Cantrelle "violated the Louisiana Whistleblower Statute by firing him after he voiced his opinion that Cantrelle’s conduct violated the Louisiana Open Meetings Law."

Attorneys for Cantrelle, however, argued for dismissal of Bagala's claim saying that he failed to state a claim "upon which relief can be granted." 

Judge Barbier granted the parish's motion, finding in part that attorneys for Bagala failed to show a violation of state law necessary to trigger the statute. The court added that, regarding his claim that Cantrelle violated his freedom of speech, Bagala "has provided no facts from which the Court can assess whether this constitutes employee or citizen speech."

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