Court of Appeal agrees with judge; denies former city attorney’s appeal

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Former Minden City Attorney (Louis) Charles Minifield will not be returning to the position he held for almost 35 years, according to a ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeal.

Recently, that court upheld a previous ruling by 26th Judicial District Court Judge Lane Pittard that said Minifield should not be reinstated as city attorney.

The next step could be to the Louisiana Supreme Court, however, Minifield said Monday he has no intention of taking the lawsuit any further.

“I have no comment at this time, but I reserve the right to comment later,” said Minifield, who became city attorney Oct. 22, 1987.

Minifield’s most recent term was supposed to take him from January 2019 to the end of 2022, but on May 6, 2020, he told the late Mayor Terry Gardner that he would be retiring at the end of that month.

Gardner accepted his resignation and notified the Municipal Employees Retirement System. The mayor called seven city council meetings to discuss replacing the city attorney, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a political boycott by one of the council members, none of the meetings had a quorum present.

The judgment states that Gardner felt the office of city attorney was vital to the operation of the city.

On May 21 – nine days before Minifield’s resignation date – Gardner suspended the city ordinance that required the council to elect the city attorney.

Gardner named Jimbo Yocom the new city attorney May 27. While the mayor was in the process of replacing him, Minifield changed his mind. He told MERS that he was withdrawing his application for retirement and faxed a copy to Gardner on May 28. At that point, the mayor had already named Yocom the new city attorney.

MERS refused to reinstate Minifield’s contributions and accrual of benefits. Minifield sued Gardner and the City of Minden for a declaratory judgment annulling his resignation and the appointment of the new city attorney, as well as damages and attorneys fees.

District Court Judge Pittard ruled “the COVID-19 issues were not really relevant; Minifield resigned, the city accepted his resignation, and he now has no claim against the mayor or city.”

The Second Circuit Court of Appeal agreed.

Yocom presently serves as city attorney.

(John O’Brien with contributed to this story.)