The Metro Council can move forward as planned with a hearing next week to vote on removing Parish Attorney Mary Roper as the city-parish’s chief lawyer, a Baton Rouge state judge ruled Friday.
State District Judge Mike Caldwell said the council has provided Roper with notice of its intent to remove her from her post, grounds for removal and what he called a “name-clearing” hearing set for Wednesday.
Caldwell said the actions taken so far by the council are authorized by law and Roper is entitled to “nothing more” than is spelled out in the Plan of Government.
Roper, who has served as parish attorney since 2008, said afterward she is eager to “tell my side of the story” at Wednesday’s public hearing.
“Absolutely. Yes,” Roper said outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse when asked if she will testify at that hearing. She said she also wants to call witnesses.
Roper filed suit against the council last month to stave off a scheduled vote to fire her.
In recent months, a faction of council members expressed its intention to remove Roper, stating it has lost confidence in her ability to run the Parish Attorney’s Office. It has accused her of mismanagement and the improper sharing of proprietary information related to copyrighted software belonging to the city.
Roper contends the attacks on her job are a political ploy by the attorneys on the council who want to give the job to one of their friends.
Hearings to remove Roper were initially scheduled for May but were twice deferred to give her an opportunity to negotiate a new job within city-parish government and retain her pension. She ultimately rejected a job with the city-parish Retirement System as legal counsel before filing her suit.
Roper is on administrative leave.
Before Caldwell issued his ruling Friday afternoon, Roper’s attorney — former Parish Attorney Wade Shows — argued at a morning court hearing that the Metro Council is acting as prosecutor, judge and jury when it comes to Roper.
Shows also argued that Roper is an appointed public official who can be removed from office only by a lawsuit filed against her, but the council’s attorney, Murphy Foster III, and Caldwell disagreed with that position.
Foster said the power of appointment carries with it the power of removal.
“All of us as lawyers have temporary jobs,” he said. “A client has a right to fire an attorney at will.”
Caldwell said from the bench it would be “unworkable” to force a client to retain an attorney in whom the client has lost trust and confidence.
Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe has said he looks forward to a public hearing to address Roper’s shortcomings.