AG Jeff Landry sues Gov. John Bel Edwards over access to funds in escrow account

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB/AP) - Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry filed another lawsuit against Governor John Bel Edwards Tuesday, this time accusing the governor of blocking access to nearly $4 million.

The money, which comes from a 2014 pharmaceutical settlement, is currently sitting in an escrow account. Landry says the money belongs to his agency and is needed to cover the costs of payroll and other legal fees. He hopes the court we coerce Edwards to give the money to his office.

"We need money to operate this office. He's hurting the people of the State of Louisiana. The legislature appropriate expenditure authority for us," said Landry.

Edwards, however, says that under rules approved by the legislature, the money instead belongs in the state's general fund. He argues that Landry has no right to spend the money. "He talks about smaller government, but he doesn't want his agency to have to engage in any of these reductions, to the point where he's trying to claim money that is in fact not his to claim," said Edwards.

Edwards tried to use the pot of money to fill in shortfalls in the state's budget during the special session, but House lawmakers said no.

The two state leaders have butted heads time and time again since they both took office in January of 2016. They even went to court over an LGBT anti-discrimination order that the governor signed.

Edwards dismissed the new lawsuit as merely a "dog-and-pony" show.

"I was a little bit amused, I guess, that he went to the media with a statement before he ever approached me and tried to work this matter out," Edwards said. "But I think that's to be expected from the Attorney General."

"The governor just wants to play petty politics. It really is disappointing and a shame," said Landry.

Landry is widely believed to be considering a run for governor against Edwards in two years.

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There is also an ongoing battle between Landry and Edwards over an executive order aimed at protecting LGBT rights.


At the core of the executive order by Edwards, the measure was meant to protect employees from being fired or discriminated against based solely on their sexual preference, but Landry believes the law seeks to create a new class of people that is not included in state law.

He said the governor simply does not have that kind of power

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.