LAFAYETTE — A dispute over serving witness subpoenas has led to yet another delay in a hearing to determine whether a former Lafayette police officer should have been fired in 2011.
Uletom Hewitt is seeking to overturn disciplinary action taken against him before he was fired, but a civil service board hearing scheduled Wednesday was delayed until next year.
Hewitt’s attorney, C. Theodore Alpaugh, obtained a temporary restraining order to block the hearing from going forward, citing insufficient time to serve Hewitt’s 34 witness subpoenas after the civil service board said it would not handle the task.
Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Kristian Earles will hold a hearing Monday on a request for a preliminary injunction to halt the proceedings further.
Lafayette’s Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, the legislative and quasi-judicial body that represents the city’s fire and police department employees, has handled subpoena service in previous appeals, until Hewitt’s case.
But Alpaugh said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that the board was claiming the number of subpoenas Hewitt wanted served was “frivolous.”
Board Attorney Candice Hattan said during the Wednesday meeting that Michael Corry, an attorney for city-parish government, requested 14 subpoenas, but that Hewitt wanted to summon witnesses from outside the department.
“When there’s lay people with statements, I generally don’t call on them to testify,” Corry said.
Some of Hewitt’s witnesses included Acadiana Mall employees who worked with Hewitt while he worked off-duty security for Dillard’s department store.
Hewitt was a five-year officer in Lafayette when he was fired Aug. 30, 2011.
He was suspended for five days in March 2011 following a December 2010 incident while he was working at Dillard’s.
After a suspicious package was found near the food court, Hewitt allegedly caused “panic and chaos” by telling people in the mall there was a “bomb and the mall was being evacuated,” according to the March 29, 2011, suspension letter signed by Police Chief Jim Craft.
Hewitt was suspended for seven days Aug. 3, 2011, on allegations that he failed to follow protocol relating to the in-car camera in his police vehicle, according to Craft’s second suspension letter.
He was terminated the same month for a number of issues cited in his termination letter: working off-duty security while on paid administrative leave; being untruthful during the administrative investigation; possessing questionable images on his government-issued laptop computer; failing to submit misdemeanor summonses, written statements and evidence in multiple criminal cases; and being terminated by Dillard’s for violating company rules and policies.
Hewitt’s appeals of the two suspensions and his termination were on hold pending the outcome of a federal lawsuit filed by 15 current and former officers, including Hewitt, that alleged corruption within the police department and Lafayette Consolidated Government.
The plaintiffs in September filed for a review by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a month after U.S. District Judge Richard Haik dismissed their claims.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook.