The board that oversees a rural utility district in northeastern East Baton Rouge Parish overturned the suspension of an employee Monday in the wake of a state inspector general’s report saying the suspension was improperly handled.
Thomas Smith was suspended by the Board of Commissioners for Gas Utility District No. 1 in July after being accused of disclosing confidential information and using profanity with another employee, according to a corrective action report filled out by then-operations manager Randy Croft.
A March 21 inspector general report, however, accused the board of handling the suspension improperly. The discipline was discussed behind closed doors without a proper vote to close the meeting and there was a discrepancy between the audio recording and the recorded minutes, the report says.
“The recorder was turned off during the meeting and turned on sometime later,” the report says. “Thus, we are unable to determine what was discussed during that time.”
Further, Croft’s report about the incident says he disagreed with the disciplinary action.
Two board members “requested on behalf of the board to write Thomas Smith up and suspend him for five days without pay,” Croft, now deceased, wrote.
In regard to the allegation that Smith had shared confidential District information, Croft wrote, “I do not feel Thomas Smith was in violation.”
The second allegation, that Smith used profanity with another employee, was “not investigated fully” and “happened two months” before the complaint was filed, Croft wrote.
Seven members of the nine-member board voted 6-1 Monday to overturn the suspension, remove the report from Smith’s personnel file and award him his pay for the five days.
The lone dissenting vote came from Charles Hinton, who was the only member present Monday who was serving on the board in July, when Smith was suspended.
“It was brought to us by Mr. Croft,” Hinton said. “The man was guilty as charged.”
Board member Greg Carroll, who was mentioned as one of the members who asked for Smith to be suspended, was not at Monday’s meeting.
William Reilly, the other member mentioned in Croft’s report, is no longer on the board.
The six members who voted to overturn the suspension have all been appointed by the Metro Council since January.
Gas Utility District No. 1 operates as the gas provider for about 3,300 residents in northeastern East Baton Rouge Parish.
District workers install and maintain gas lines, set rates and collect payment, said Smith, who is now the interim operations manager in the district.