Clarence Mayor Tommy Evans files suit after allegedly being ‘trampled’ by cattle

Site of Clarence oxidation ponds

Separate suit naming Evans as defendant gets new court date

By Carolyn Roy and Juanice Gray,

Clarence Mayor Tommy Evans will be spending quite a bit of time at the Parish Courthouse. He is named in one suit filed by District Attorney Billy Joe Harrington in October as a defendant and in a second suit pertaining to injuries filed Nov. 21 as the plaintiff.

Clarence Mayor Tommy Evans

Harrington filed a writ of mandamus petition Oct. 25. Generally, a petition for a mandamus order is made to compel a judicial or government officer to perform a duty. Evans was in court Thursday, Nov. 29 before Judge Lala Sylvester.

Among the violations listed in that suit are violations of the La. Open Meetings Law by refusing to hold open meetings at least once a month. The other basis for the suit cites violation of the LARS Act which requires elected officials to perform their duties. Evans allegedly did not hold meetings in January, March, June, July, September and October of this year. Harrington’s petition says that Evans went so far as to change the locks at Village of Clarence City Hall so the aldermen and public could not inspect financial books and records and transact normal business for the municipality.

Also a threat to Clarence is the fact that the village owes the City of Natchitoches $20,000 for bulk water that could be discontinued for failure to pay the water bill. Harrington is asking the court to require Evans to produce the following documents:

•Show the last time Evans gave proper notice of a council meeting prior to October

•Name the person designated to take council meeting minutes and supply transcripts of those meetings

•Name the person responsible for financial records

•List of meetings held in 2018

•Bank statements for January, March, June, July, September and October.

Evans was represented by Mike Hayes. Harrington and Assistant DA Cloyd Benjamin represented the District Attorney’s office and the City. Harrington began the proceedings by informing Judge Sylvester that his office had not received any of the 12 individual items listed in the subpoena. Hayes then presented a folder to Harrington and Sylvester allowed a recess for Harrington to look over the documents.

After a 45 minute recess, Harrington stated some of the items were submitted, however “…a number of the items have not been provided.” Harrington requested the judge order the remaining subpoenaed items be remitted within seven days. Among the missing items were proof of monthly council meetings.

As the official legal journal for the Village of Clarence, Natchitoches Times records reflect the Village only published the minutes of three meetings in 2018; Feb. 3 for the Dec. 14 and Dec. 19, 2017 meetings, March 29 for the Feb. 8 meeting and May 10 for the April 12 meeting.

Judge Sylvester granted the DA’s request and Evans was taken to the Clerk of Courts office to be served. A new court date of Jan. 9 at 10 a.m. was set.

In the second suit, Evans claims he was trampled by hungry cows as he checked the town’s oxidation pond Nov. 22, 2017, and is seeking damages from the cows’ owner in a suit filed in the Clerk of Court’s office Nov. 21 of this year.

Evans alleges that he was attempting to check the oxidation pond when he “seen a heard” of cattle belonging to Rayburn Smith.

The petition states that “the cattle came rushing at plaintiff and knocked plaintiff to the ground and trampled plaintiff causing this incident and resulting immediate injury and pain…The condition of the cattle, not having food or hay, presented an unreasonable risk of harm to plaintiff Tommy Evans… who has suffered bodily injuries, including but not limited to injuries to plaintiff’s lower back and neck.”

Evans alleges that Smith knew the condition of the cattle presented an unreasonable risk; that he failed to inspect the premises and cattle; failed to place warning signs; and did not maintain the premises and keep them from dangerous conditions. Evans says his suffering will continue for an indefinite period of time with “great and excruciating pain, both mental and physical, together with the inability to engage in normal social and recreational activities which inability may be permanent.”

In a rather unusual part of the suit, Evans says he has suffered non-exclusive injuries as a result of the accident for not only present and future, but also past: medical bills, mental anguish, pain and suffering; pharmaceutical bills; enjoyment of life; loss of earnings, incidental expenses; and other recoverable damages allowed under Louisiana law. Evans is seeking damages for pain, suffering, inconvenience and mental anguish and seeks a trial.

The suit also names Smith’s insurer, XYZ Insurance Co.

Evans has filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis which refers to the ability of an indigent person to proceed in court without payment of the usual fees associated with the suit or appeal. He asks that he not be required to prepay court costs.

The defendant in this case, Rayburn Smith, issued the following statement, “It is a frivolous case, not well put together at all. If we go to court we will win. End of story.”