(The Daily Advertiser) – A Lafayette city-parish councilman called Tuesday for the resignations of the chairman, vice chairman and attorney for the municipal fire and police civil service board after playing a taped conversation in which the attorney allegedly made a racist comment about the NAACP president.
Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux said the conversation between civil service board chairman Jason Boudreaux and board attorney Candice Hattan was picked up by the audio recorder used to tape meetings during or just after a civil service board meeting. The two were, according to Kenneth Boudreaux, discussing how to collect fines and fees from NAACP President Marja Broussard after she lost a lawsuit against the board.
“They closed debtors prison down,” the woman says. “We can’t hang the poor lady by, you know, by a rope in front of the courthouse for the birds to pick her eyes out.”
Asked afterward by The Daily Advertiser if he was offended by the comments, Deputy Police Chief Reginald Thomas replied, “Yes. Very much so,” and described the comments as “shocking.”
Hattan is not employed by Lafayette Consolidated Government. Kenneth Boudreaux asked administration and the city attorney to look into the ability of LCG to withhold any fees owed to Hattan by city-parish government because of her comments.
Kenneth Boudreaux asked the police chief to investigate the entire fire and police civil service board and the police department’s representative on it, Vice Chairman Lt. Guy Lebreton. He asked the fire chief to do investigate his department’s representative, Chairman Jason Boudreaux.
The board became embroiled in controversy earlier this year over the qualifications needed to apply for Lafayette police chief. The board required applicants for chief to have a four-year degree. Other cities in the state, including Baton Rouge and Shreveport, offset the lack of a four-year degree with years of on-the-job service.
Mayor-President Joel Robideaux asked the fire and police civil service board to change the qualifications, suggesting a tiered approach that balanced college education and experience. The board rejected his suggestion, which disqualified Reginald Thomas, who has served as interim police chief since late January, because he has only a two-year degree despite more than 25 years with the department.
Tuesday, Kenneth Boudreaux said the process is flawed and Robideaux was not able to appoint the person he felt was most qualified to be police chief. The councilman asked Robideaux to reject the applicants for chief and order the civil service board to start the search over.
Robideaux said he doesn’t think the law allows him to reject the candidates for chief and order a new search.
“My intention was to name somebody this week,” Robideaux told the Advertiser. “I certainly respect Mr. (Kenneth) Boudreaux’s points, but unless the law tells me something different, I plan on moving forward in accordance with the law.”
In a related matter, the council voted 6-3 Tuesday to remove Ralph Peters from the fire and police civil service board. Voting to remove Peters were council members Jay Castille, Boudreaux, Pat Lewis, Bruce Conque, Nanette Cook and Liz Hebert. Voting not to remove Peters were Councilmen Kevin Naquin, Jared Bellard and William Theriot.
The council appointed Peters, a former police officer, to the board, but learned this year state civil service law prohibits a public employee from serving on the board. Peters teaches criminal justice classes at Northwestern State University.
Earlier this year, Boudreaux pointed out the law to Peters and another board member, Craig Forsyth, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette professor. Forsyth resigned. Peters did not.
Robideaux appointed Thomas, effective Tuesday, to a new position, deputy police chief.