St. James Parish attorney Bruce Mohon has been replaced as parish government attorney after nearly 15 years on the job, following a judge's ruling last month that he committed prosecutorial misconduct in the malfeasance-in-office case against parish Director of Operations Blaise Gravois.
But the move is due to a promotion, officials said: Mohon is now the new chief assistant in charge of all of the 23rd Judicial District Attorney's personnel in St. James Parish. The district also covers Ascension and Assumption parishes.
District Attorney Ricky Babin informed St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel in a May 2 letter that Assistant District Attorney Cody Martin has been appointed as the new St. James Parish government attorney. Attorney Michael Calabro is assisting him.
The letter came a week after 23rd Judicial District Judge Jessie LeBlanc harshly criticized Mohon's actions as parish attorney in the Gravois case and found that his misconduct helped form a key basis for her ruling April 25 to throw out all five malfeasance-in-office charges against Gravois.
A state district judge threw out all five malfeasance in office counts Tuesday against Blais…
Though prosecutors are planning an appeal and have challenged LeBlanc's conclusions, the ruling delivered a major blow to the corruption prosecution of Gravois and possibly Roussel.
As Gravois had been, Roussel is accused of directing parish employees to do public work on private property without reimbursement in 2015 over largely the same facts, including the case that prompted LeBlanc's misconduct finding. Roussel is before a different judge, but his attorneys say LeBlanc's ruling will be applicable.
In Babin's May 2 letter to Roussel, the district attorney gives no reason for the move but writes he made it after speaking to St. James Parish Council members.
Councilman Jason Amato said he and other councilmen had spoken with Babin about his need to do something, in general, to help the relationship among the council, parish president and parish attorney, possibly through coaching or temporarily reassigning personnel.
"I talked with Ricky about helping improve the situation and getting back to a cohesive group," Amato said.
But, in interviews, prosecutors said the changing duties for Mohon are not connected to the Gravois case but are a promotion flowing from an office reorganization that Mohon said has been "in the works for some time."
"I am excited about this promotion," Mohon said in an interview Tuesday. "It's a wonderful opportunity for me professionally, and I have the full confidence of the district attorney and his full backing in this position. I look forward to continuing to serve the people of St. James Parish."
In his new job, Mohon is overseeing Babin's criminal and civil attorneys and staff, including St. James Parish government's new attorney, Martin, who has worked as a legal adviser in Ascension Parish, Mohon said.
In the April 25 ruling, LeBlanc agreed with Gravois' defense attorneys that Mohon committed misconduct and violated his duty to uphold the fairness of the process when he advised parish officials not to accept payment from Millennium Galvanizing for a gas line the parish had installed for the plant north of Convent in 2015.
The advice came in the days and months after Gravois and Roussel were indicted on malfeasance counts, including over nonpayment for the gas line.
"No indictment would have been obtained had the payment been accepted," she wrote. "Mr. Mohon was not only the advisor to the parish, but also the felony prosecutor in this division. He had to have known the precarious position his client was placed in by not accepting payment."
At the time, Council Chairman Alvin St. Pierre had concerns a mysterious $26,000 parish invoice for the gas line did not cover the full cost for the job and Mohon advised St. Pierre not to accept payment for that invoice until the cost could be investigated further. Prosecutors have charged the invoice was backdated before the late September indictment and was an attempted cover-up by Roussel and Gravois, claims LeBlanc rejected.
An attorney for Gravois declined comment Tuesday about the new job duties for Mohon, but, as part of the reorganization, Mohon also has been shifted out of LeBlanc's criminal division, where he had worked as a prosecutor for the past few years.
Tyler Cavalier, spokesman for the district attorney, said the decision to change Mohon's job roles stems from the increasing workload in St. James that made it hard for Mohon to handle it all.
Cavalier added that Mohon and other prosecutors in St. James made the decision on how to divide up criminal responsibilities in the parish.
Assistant District Attorney Adam Koenig has been serving as the prosecutor in LeBlanc's Division D for the past couple weeks, Cavalier said. Mohon is now a prosecutor before judges Jason Verdigets and Alvin Turner Jr.
Since the April 10 hearing on Gravois' case, Mohon had been absent from council meetings on April 19 and 25, replaced by interim attorney Steven Tureau, minutes show.
Roussel, who has clashed with Babin and Mohon over Mohon's pay, said Babin did not tell him why Mohon was no longer the parish attorney. Roussel said he is happy with Martin and has been meeting with him about the parish's business.