Divided Metro Council names Lea Anne Batson as Parish Attorney _lowres

Lea Anne Batson

Longtime city-parish employee Lea Anne Batson was officially promoted Wednesday to top legal adviser for East Baton Rouge Parish.

Batson, an employee with 27 years of experience with the Parish Attorney’s Office, beat out two other finalists: City Court Judicial Administrator Lon Norris and Michael Adams, a private attorney and co-owner of an insurance liquidation firm.

She replaces Mary Roper, her former boss, who was fired by the council last year after several months of public acrimony between her and a handful of council members.

Batson has served as interim parish attorney for months. She previously was the first assistant, or second in command, to Roper, so she was the most experienced and knowledgeable about running the office compared to the two other finalists. They poised themselves as blank slates with fresh perspectives who could make sweeping changes.

Batson said the last year has been difficult for her office and staff, who have been stressed by the changes in the office and by accusations from council members.

She told a search committee last week that she had implemented several changes in the office to address council concerns, such as asking all employees to sign daily time sheets to ensure they’re working full 40-hour weeks.

“I’m very pleased by the council’s support,” she said after the meeting. “We’re looking forward to moving on and having a great relationship with the council.”

Her approval for the position was narrow. Ultimately, she got the required seven votes from all of the Republican men on the council: John Delgado, Chandler Loupe, Scott Wilson, Ryan Heck, Joel Boé, Trae Welch and Buddy Amoroso. The five Democrat women voted for Adams. Those supporting Adams were Chauna-Banks Daniel, Donna Collins-Lewis, C. Denise Marcelle, Tara Wicker and Ronnie Edwards.

Norris got two supporters, Boé and Amoroso, in the first round of votes, but he didn’t make the runoff.

The council didn’t make an issue of the fact that Batson is not technically a full-time employee. She is retired, so she is paid for 29 hours a week. But she said she works between 35 and 45 hours a week.

Loupe, the mayor pro tem, previously took exception with Roper’s schedule, saying he didn’t think she and many of her employees were working full time and were dividing too much of their attention to private practices.

Batson said she has not yet named a first assistant. She plans on officially naming Anderson Dotson as city prosecutor. In January, Batson reassigned former City Prosecutor Lisa Freeman, promoting Dotson to the office.

The parish attorney is the top legal adviser for the parish and manager of the office, which provides legal guidance to the mayor-president, the Metro Council, the Baton Rouge city police and other departments.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.

Editor’s note: This article was changed on Thursday, April 23, to note that Norris was supported by Bo é and Amoroso in the first round of voting.