Franklin County is headed back to court Friday in a lawsuit a Villa Ridge man has filed over the appointment of taxpayer-funded lawyers.
A hearing is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. before Associate Circuit Judge Richard Scheibe at the Franklin County Judicial Center, Courtroom 302.
A trial date may be set at Friday’s hearing or it could just be a status update on the case, according to the circuit court.
Art LeBeau of Villa Ridge argues in his lawsuit that a county commission order appointing attorneys to represent Franklin County violates a state statute.
But the county has denied arguments and conclusions raised in the lawsuit and says state statute allows for the appointment of an assistant county counselor.
The lawsuit deals with the commission order that appointed Mark Vincent county counselor and the Union law firm of Purschke, White, Robinson and Becker as assistant county counselors.
LeBeau’s lawsuit challenges the fact that the county commission appointed multiple attorneys for representation.
The commission order appointing the attorneys only cites State Statute Section 56.631, the suit states. Le-Beau says that statute section allows the commission to appoint a county counselor but not “duly licensed attorneys as the county counselors to assist in all civil matters...” as stated in the commission order.
State Statute 56.631 “does not allow nor provide for additional attorneys,” LeBeau’s lawsuit states.
Lawsuit Is ‘Moot’
The county is being represented in the case by Matt Becker with the Union law firm of Purschke, White, Robinson, Becker & Briegel.
Becker has filed an answer to the lawsuit, denying arguments and conclusions raised by LeBeau.
Missouri Statute 56.640-56.670 allows for the appointment and compensation of an assistant county counselor, Becker states in his answer. The answer also says that any claim made by LeBeau is “moot.”
LeBeau, who is not an attorney, is representing himself in the case.
County Lawyer Pay
The compensation paid to the assistant county counselors is also challenged in the suit.
The commission order states that the assistant county counselors “shall receive such compensation as provided in the 2013 county budget as reflected in that portion of the budget applicable to the county municipal court.”
LeBeau’s lawsuit said that language is “not a comprehendible statement.”
The county pays the Purschke law firm $5,500 a month, according to County Auditor Tammy Vemmer.
Vincent makes $118,450 per year.
In his answer to the lawsuit, Becker states, “to the extent that plaintiff is alluding to some conspiracy, it should be noted that the commissioners routinely consider and pass orders concerning the appointment of and compensation of the county counselor and assistant counselors in December of each year.”
The lawsuit also challenges a 2013 commission order that appointed three of the law firm’s lawyers to serve as assistant county counselors. LeBeau says the first paragraph of that commission order is void because it does not subscribe to the cited State Statute 56.650.
Also, one part of the commission order states that the assistant county counselors will receive a salary as is fixed by the county counselor and approved by the county commission ...”
But LeBeau says the law firm’s attorneys are not county employees and therefore cannot receive a salary.
Furthermore, LeBeau’s lawsuit states that Becker is an “impostor” who lacks standing to represent the county. Becker denied this allegation in his answer.