A New Orleans judge on Wednesday granted Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle’s motion to dismiss a civil suit filed against him by his former employee.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier approved two motions to dismiss the suit filed by former Lafourche Parish Administrator Reggie Bagala against the parish and Cantrelle.

If Bagala, represented by attorney Jerri Smitko of Houma, doesn’t file an amended complaint within 14 days, the case will be dismissed, court records show.

Smitko could not be reached for comment.

“Obviously, we agree with the judge's ruling and will follow up and see to it that this frivolous lawsuit is fully and finally dismissed,” James Cobb, the attorney hired to represent Cantrelle in his personal and professional capacities, said Thursday.

The Parish Council canceled a contract with Cobb last month. As a result, Cantrelle is responsible for paying his own attorney’s fees. The parish is being represented separately by Stephen Haedickie.

Haedickie could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The federal lawsuit, filed Jan. 31, claims Cantrelle violated Bagala’s First Amendment rights and Louisiana state law.

Bagala served as the parish administrator from September 2016 until he was fired by Cantrelle in January 2017. Within a week, he was hired by the council as legislative auditor.

Bagala claims in the suit that Cantrelle violated Louisiana open meetings laws by having him call council members about an insurance issue that was coming before the council for a vote. Bagala alleges Cantrelle threatened to discontinue health insurance for parish employees if the council did not approve a new group insurance plan.

Investigations were completed by former District Attorney Cam Morvant and the state ethics board. In a February letter to Cantrelle, the ethics board’s Jennifer T. Land said the investigation did not reveal clear and convincing evidence that an ethics violation occurred and closed the file.

The suit calls for compensatory damages for mental and emotional harm, punitive damages and legal fees. It does not list specific amounts for the damages.

 

Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or julia.arenstam@houmatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @gingerale214.