Jazz Fest Foundation appeals judge’s decision to keep benefits in place for former board chairs

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — With Jazz Fest starting in just over a week, new challenges have been filed in a case involving costly perks for former board chairs.

The Jazz and Heritage Foundation is now appealing a decision that keeps those benefits in place.

For the first time in three years, vendors will set up stages and food stalls for Jazz Fest. But beneath the surface there’s a legal storm brewing, brought on by two former presidents fighting to keep thousands of dollars in perks – including dozens of tickets, special parking passes and access to backstage.

“Were these two individuals irreparably harmed for not receiving free tickets or stage access, really? I don’t believe it,” Tulane legal expert Joel Friedman said.

Orleans Civil Court Judge Nicole Shepard granted former Judge Michael Bagneris and Demetric Mercadel’s request to keep the benefits in place.

“I hope she changes her mind. I don’t think that’s fair. Too many people are getting away with things they shouldn’t be getting away with these days,” Larry said. Wessel of New Orleans.

The Jazz Fest Foundation board of directors filed an appeal, arguing that the benefits have now been eliminated. The foundation asked for an expedited hearing, given that Jazz Fest is scheduled to begin next weekend, a time when the thousands of dollars in benefits would normally be put to use.

As he prepares for another festival, Davis declined to comment.

“We are not really part of the foundation and its policies. We are the actors of the festival,” Davis said.

For now, the benefits remain in place.

“It’s very disappointing that people of this stature are clinging to the silly little perk which, by the way, is taxable income, which should be reported on their tax returns,” Friedman said.

But Friedman predicts those benefits will be eliminated if, and when, the case goes to full trial.

This week, attorneys for Michael Bagneris filed new court documents asking that the injunction against the removal of benefits remain in place during the upcoming Jazz Fest, so as not to cause irreparable harm. We contacted Bagneris for a comment, but did not hear back.

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