Leesville leaders thanked the outgoing city attorney Tuesday, but then things took an odd turn.

Leesville leaders thanked the outgoing city attorney Tuesday, but then things took an odd turn.

During a mostly routing meeting, members of the Leesville City Council noted that Alvin Chuck Dowden “is hereby relieved of his duties” as of Jan. 1. The mayor and city council voted to appoint Max Antony as the city attorney for Leesville, starting Jan. 1.

Both measures were passed without discussion and took less than one minute of the hourlong meeting.

Later, during the same meeting, all the members of the city council had a chance to speak. Most of them included kind words for Dowden.

Alice Guess, councilwoman at large, went first.

“I’d like to thank Mr. Dowden for his service, once again. I appreciate all the hard work that you have done for the city of Leesville. Mr. Antony, welcome. I’m looking forward to working with you. And lastly, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy New Years, and I’ll see you next year,” she said.

Chris Robertson councilman for District 1, echoed those thoughts.

“Mr. Dowden, I appreciate your service, sir. Thank you very much,” he said.'“I enjoyed it,” Dowden answered.

Willie Mae Kennedy, councilwoman for District 2, followed Robertson.

“The same, thanking Mr. Dowden for your services, and welcome, Mr. Antony,” she said.

Tony Shapkoff, from District 4, also thanked Dowden.

“Mr. Dowden, it was fun, the way you served, and I wish you the best of luck, and Merry Christmas. Mr. Antony, I look forward to serving with you,” he said.

William R. Thomas, councilman at large, wished everyone a Merry Christmas.

“I’d like to thank Mr. Dowden again, and welcome to Mr. Antony,” he said.

The only one who did not mention Dowden was Danny Dowd, councilman for District 3. He simply offered a statement of Merry Christmas to everyone.

Thanks, but ...

After these offerings of thanks, Mayor Rick Allen asked Dowden to provide the council an update on the cases he was passing on to Antony. Dowden obliged, briefly touching on a few cases.

After he was done, he got personal.

“I would like to clear up just one little matter. For my self interest. Amongst some of the comments that were made about me was that I billed the city of Leesville 168 hours. Well, that’s an absolute misstatement of fact,” he said.

Both Dowd and Shapkoff pounced.

“That’s what the city reported to us,” Shapkoff said.

“I didn’t say that you billed 168 hours. It was showed on your payroll records that you were paid for 168 hours,” Dowd said.

“That is correct,” Shapkoff added.

“Well, if you understood payroll records, you would know I was a salaried employee, Mr. Dowd,” Dowden said.

“Yes sir, I do understand payroll records. I have salaried employees,” Dowd shot back. “And when I look at what has 80 hours every pay period, and then all of a sudden I see 168 hours in a pay period — ”

“Well do you think I billed it? Do you think I requested it?” Dowden asked.

“I never said you did, sir,” Dowd answered.

The mayor tried to interrupt, but Dowden put a stop to the conversation himself.

“I have nothing further to say, Mayor. It’s been a great pleasure to serve the city, and I wish y’all the best of luck in moving this town as far forward as you can and as fast as you can,” he said.

Allen added that starting in 2017, the city attorney would be present at every council meeting to provide updates on all pending cases.

The controversy

The unexpected argument at the council meeting comes after some questions arose at a few previous meetings about Dowden's status with the city.

Dowden had announced his resignation at the May 9 meeting, stating that his final day on the job would be June 30. He claimed he wanted to spend more time with his family, especially his young granddaughter.

However, Dowden continued working for the city on several cases, along with the city's audit. He received 11 checks after his original resignation date, all of which tallied 80 hours per time period, with the exception of the check he received on August 12, which showed 168 hours of work claimed.

Local attorney Clay Williams took over the role as city prosecutor after Dowden's resignation, but the city attorney position remained “vacant” as the city had interviewed a couple of candidates, including Antony.

But Dowden continued to work as the city attorney, even though several members of the council thought the position was still empty.

At the Dec. 11 meeting, Dowd read a letter out loud near the end of the meeting voicing his concerns about how Allen had failed to let the council know Dowden was still working for the city and was still being paid, even after his resignation.

An argument between Dowd and Allen ensued, leading to Allen quickly asking for an adjournment after a brief, heated exchange.