Police Chief Dewayne White is getting grief from two high-ranking police officers about his decision to transfer them to night chief positions.
Majors Ernest Brewer and Patricia Tauzin requested appeal hearings before the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board after White moved them from positions they have held for years under previous administrations.
The board voted unanimously Thursday not to grant the hearings, saying the board only hears appeals when they pertain to corrective or disciplinary action.
“The chief has the authority to realign people for the betterment of the department,” Board President Bryan Taylor said at the board meeting. “I don’t see any reason to allow officers to appeal these decisions.”
Joe Lotwick, the Police Department’s attorney, agreed and told the board that employees have the right to appeal corrective and disciplinary actions, but not transfers.
The only exception would be if the transfers were punitive or discriminatory, he said.
Jill Craft, the attorney for Brewer and Tauzin, said after the board meeting it’s possible her clients were transferred in retaliation for a lawsuit they filed last year against the city-parish.
The lawsuit alleges the officers were denied overtime and holiday pay after being promoted to major, which is exempt from such benefits.
“The hearings should have been granted,” Craft said. “The transfers constitute adverse action against an employee.”
Brewer and Tauzin were transferred from head of the Police Administration, Intelligence Division and head of the Operation Bureau, respectively, on June 7, shortly after White was appointed chief of police, the officers’ requests for hearings say.
The officers were moved to night chief positions.
Tauzin says in her request that because of the move she no longer gets commander’s pay, which amounts to about $200 a month.
She also says in the request that she feels “totally useless out here” and that she’s “being punished for doing a great job for the City of Baton Rouge.”
“I loved my job,” she said. “I now hate my job.”
Brewer says in his request that the chief’s actions are arbitrary, capricious and outside the scope of his authority.
Craft said her clients were relegated to an unofficial position with the police department that wastes the talents of two distinguished police officers.
She added that neither she nor her clients attended Thursday’s board meeting because they were not aware the board would be discussing their requests.
“I would have welcomed a chance to address them,” she said, adding that she’s considering appealing the board’s decision to the 19th Judicial District Court.
Taylor said Craft, Brewer and Tauzin were not notified of the board’s intention to discuss their requests because it was an administrative matter.
“We weren’t hashing out their case,” he said. “We were discussing whether it should be heard.”
Taylor added that during his 16 years with the police department he hasn’t known a police chief to punish a police officer by transferring him.
Taylor also said the night chief position is one of great authority.
“Put me in charge of the department at night,” he said jokingly. “I’ll do it.”