Gonzales councilmen hire attorney to fight rezoning lawsuit

Gonzales City Council votes to allow city to pay for lawyer to represent 3 councilmen named in lawsuit

GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - Three councilmen in the City of Gonzales who are being sued over their decision not to rezone a piece of land have hired their own attorney.

District Judge Alvin Turner, Jr., who owns the property, wants to develop a subdivision. But a vote by the council has put those plans on hold. Turner filed a lawsuit to have the vote reversed.

The 30-acre plot of land near the intersection of West Worthy Street and South Darla Avenue is ready to be groomed for development. The land is zoned for larger homes. Judge Turner wants to rezone it to allow him to build more and smaller homes on the same amount of land.

Mayor Barney Arceneaux said it seemed like an easy process.

"I think on this particular one, the gentleman (Turner) did his homework. Planning and zoning approved and we thought it would go right through," Arceneaux said.

But it was voted down 3 to 2 by councilmen Terrance Irvin, Gary Lacombe, and Timothy Vessel. Shortly after, Turner filed suit. In turn, Lacombe called a special meeting to ask the mayor for money to hire an attorney to defend them.

The three councilmen hired Robert Barnett. He works for the same firm currently representing a police officer in a suit against the city. That has raised some questions.

"I do think it is a conflict with that company suing the city," Kenny Matassa said.

As for why the three men chose Barnett or why they would not approve the rezoning measure, they would not say.

"It's in litigation so when the litigation is done we can talk about it," Lacombe said.

Councilman Vessel had nothing to say as he left city hall on Wednesday.

Barnett will be paid $185 dollars an hour, the same rate the council pays the city attorney.

A judge appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court will hear the case in a Gonzales courtroom on Monday at 1 p.m.

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