LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A motion for a partial summary judgment is being filed Wednesday against the Port of Lake Charles in the amount of $5.56 million.
Lawyers for the Lake Charles Stevedores allege misappropriation of public funds after the Port paid a prior owner of the company $1.3 million to buy out the rights of the Lake Charles Stevedores immediately prior to canceling their contract in 2011.
According to the stevedores' attorney, Thomas Filo, the Port of Lake Charles paid $1.3 million to Cooper/T. Smith Stevedoring Corporation and Cavalair Corporation -- former owner of the Lake Charles Stevedores -- without the consent or knowledge of Stevedores' owner, Tom Flanagan, under the guise of extinguishing any obligation.
The port canceled the stevedores' contract in 2011, which they had every right to do, Filo said, but at that time, they should have paid the stevedores $5.56 million in liquidated damages as the contract outlined.
Filo said instead, they paid the wrong party, Cooper/T. Smith and Cavalair, a lesser amount through two wire transfers of taxpayer money.
Judge Wilford Carter made a ruling in July that the Port's assignment to pay Cooper/T.Smith and Cavalair was "ineffective and invalid."
Listed in the motion are Cooper/T. Smith, Cavalair, the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District and Ports America Services.
Bill Rase, executive director of the Port of Lake Charles, released the following statement to KPLC regarding the filing:
Throughout the years, the Port of Lake Charles has been an economic engine for Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana and has attracted billions of dollars of capital investment in this area resulting in thousands of jobs for our citizens. The Port does not normally comment on ongoing litigation; however, in light of the spurious allegations made by Tom Filo and posted on KPLC-TV's website today, the Port issues the following statement:
The lawsuit filed by Tom Flanagan of Beaumont, Texas, against the Port of Lake Charles involves the cancellation of a contract that, in the Port's opinion, was not in the best interest of the Port or the citizens of Southwest Louisiana. There has been no misappropriation of funds by the Port as has been alleged by Mr. Flanagan and there is no factual or legal basis for this claim. In fact, the Port has directed its lawyers to seek the appropriate legal response to these false and misleading allegations should Mr. Flanagan refuse to voluntarily dismiss any claims alleging misappropriation or criminal wrongdoing. As this case moves through the judicial system this fact will be made clear.
Mr. Flanagan is not new to litigation and has either threatened or filed lawsuits against numerous ports throughout his time in business including the Ports of New Orleans, Houston, Galveston, Port Arthur and Lake Charles. Mr. Flanagan has also been a claimant before the Federal Maritime Commission on several occasions.
The Port intends to file its own Motion for Summary Judgment regarding the contract at issue and looks forward to the resolution of this case through the judicial system.