March 14, 2020 by Tom Aswell (Louisiana Voice)
It’s not uncommon for a client to fire his attorney, but for an attorney to fire his client?
Pretty rare, especially if that client is a fairly large municipality paying significant fees. For law firms putting a fair amount of emphasis on rainmaking (legal parlance for bringing in clients), it’s practically unprecedented.
But in the case of the City of Shreveport, LouisianaVoice has learned that’s exactly what has happened. Mired in decades-long battles with the Environmental Protection Agency over illegal sewerage discharges, attorney Tim Hardy finally had enough and “fired” his client on Friday.
Having already paid a $650,000 fine to the EPA, while agreeing to the 146-page CONSENT DECREE entered into under the administration of former Mayor Cedric Glover in 2014, the city saw the cost of compliance mushroom from $350 million to $1 billion—and apparently balked.
A year ago, Mayor Adrian Perkins appointed Burns and McDonnel/Bonton to oversee compliance and Hardy, a Shreveport native and a partner in the Baton Rouge law firm BREAZEALE, SACHSE & WILSON was retained for legal representation in negotiations with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and the EPA.
The consent decree was entered into after the city was cited for violations of the Clean Water Act in the form of discharges of untreated sewage into the Red River, according to an online EPA POSTING of the settlement agreement.
The city also posted its own VERSION of the agreement.
A state AUDIT of the city for the year ended December 31, 2017 addressed the ongoing problems with wastewater problems experienced by the city:
“A consent decree, with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), relative to wastewater improvements in Shreveport was officially filed in early 2014. The consent decree will require the city to make various wastewater treatment plant and sanitary sewer infrastructure improvements in order to reduce sanitary sewer overflows in the sewer collection system and meet wastewater discharge permit requirements under wet weather conditions.
“To fund the sewer improvement program, the City Council approved rate increases over a 10-year period. The first of those increases went into effect October 1, 2013. A 15% increase in sewer rates went into effect January 1, 2017. The Water & Sewerage department continues to work with the EPA to make sure the project stays on schedule. With most of the Phase 1 projects completed the City has started on Phase 2 projects while laying the ground work for Phase 3. To help fund that work an additional $120 million of Water & Sewer revenue bonds were sold in 2017.
“The City continues to pay off General Obligation Bonds; the City will pay off all but the 2011 and 2014 GOB debt in the next 3 years. Increases in Water and Sewer rates will fund the additional debt required to complete the project required by the consent decree. With most revenues flat, continuing services at current levels will be a challenge without additional revenues.”
Sewage discharge apparently isn’t the only environmental issue facing the city. An online report by Epic Water Filters cited a laundry list of contaminants found in Shreveport’s drinking water.
But whatever the problem with the sewage discharge, the city apparently was not heeding the advice of its legal representation and a frustrated Hardy finally called it quits on Friday.
LouisianaVoice attempted to contact Hardy for a comment, emailing him on Saturday, asking that he call us.
He read our email just seven minutes after we sent it at 2:47 p.m.…
To: Tim Hardy
Sent: Saturday, March 14, 2020 2:47:10 PM (UTC-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada)
was read on Saturday, March 14, 2020 2:54:24 PM (UTC-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada).
…but did not respond.