BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Baton Rouge City Parish officially has a champion in the fight against the proposed city of St. George. The EBR Metro Council hired veteran attorney Mary Olive Pierson. City leaders say this was done not to stop the St. George movement, but to make sure that everyone follows the letter of the law, and to have someone around if the whole sticky situation winds up in court.
"Somehow I have risen up as the anti-Christ to St. George," quipped Pierson about the perception many have about her.
Pierson has made her feelings against the St. George movement well known. The request to hire her as special counsel for the city came from the office of Mayor Kip Holden.
"We're bringing forward this particular item just to ensure that all of the residents in the city and the parish have a chance to be represented on this issue," said chief administrative assistant William Daniel.
EBR Metro Council hired of Pierson for $40,000, an hourly rate of $175 dollars. Pierson says her normal rate is $350. She says the discounted rate is because she has a personal interest in the situation.
The Hire was approved eight votes to three. Councilmen Buddy Amoroso and Joel Boe opposed the hire, and Councilman Ryan Heck was absent from the vote.
"I don't understand how you can take citizens', tax payer's money and basically sue fellow tax payers," said Amoroso.
St. George leaders also fired back on social media, posting this to Facebook shortly after the vote:
"The Metro Council voted to sue citizens of this parish with taxes they contribute to stop them from voting. This is exactly why we're fighting for local control of our taxes and schools. They will do anything they can to stop us. Even if it means trampling on democracy. It's been David vs. Goliath since day one. We're used to it, and we're not going away."
However, others saw this move as a necessary step to make sure the St. George effort and EBR's response all comply with state law.
"I believe that they have the right to follow the law and ask for their own city. I also believe that we in the city of Baton Rouge have the right to make sure that the plan of government is followed," said Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle.
"You should test this movement to make sure that it qualifies as a valid and legal movement," said Pierson.
Pierson currently represents the city in a lawsuit filed by Woody Jenkins last June.
He filed the lawsuit after the East Baton Rouge Metro Council approved the annexation of the Mall of Louisiana and Baton Rouge General Hospital - Bluebonnet. Jenkins, who is a supporter of the highly contested proposed city of St. George, said the annexations of those two facilities into the city of Baton Rouge are illegal.