A Baton Rouge judge reversed the 2008 firing of Zachary Assistant Police Chief Bruce Chaisson on Monday, ruling the city’s Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board unconstitutionally acted as both prosecutor and judge in the case.
“Very happy. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been vindicated,’’ Chaisson said outside state District Judge Mike Caldwell’s courtroom.
Caldwell, after listening to an hour’s worth of arguments from Chaisson attorney Pat Amedee and board attorney Mark Plaisance, overturned the board’s actions and revoked Chaisson’s termination.
Plaisance said afterward he will “more than likely’’ ask the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to review the judge’s decision.
“As of today, he is now reinstated with the department,’’ Amedee said of Chaisson.
The allegations against Chaisson included following his next-door neighbor from East Feliciana Parish into Zachary and writing her traffic tickets, treating subordinate officers unfairly and creating a hostile work environment.
The board held a series of hearings in 2008 on the officer and citizen complaints before it directed Police Chief John Herty to fire Chaisson, a 28-year veteran of the Police Department.
Chaisson appealed the decision to the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, but a judge sent the case back to the civil service panel for an appeals hearing.
The board, which includes several members who were not on the panel in 2008, began hearing the case last fall and voted unanimously Nov. 9 to uphold Chaisson’s firing.
Amedee argued Monday the process leading up to Chaisson’s termination was a “witch hunt’’ and said the board acted as investigator, prosecutor and decision-maker, denying Chaisson a “fair and impartial tribunal.’’
“The city of Zachary’s got to play by the same rules as everybody else,’’ he told Caldwell.
Plaisance contended the board made the right call.
“There is ample evidence to support what the board did in this case,’’ he told the judge. “We think the board acted properly and did what it was supposed to do.’’
Caldwell agreed with Amedee.
“The board in this case served as both prosecutor and judge,’’ he said.
Chaisson has denied harassing employees or acting improperly in an incident in which he ticketed a neighbor while he was in a dispute with her and her family.
The city prosecutor later dismissed the traffic citations.