Civil Service Board affirms firing of ex-Denham Springs police chief Scott Jones; appeal in the works _lowres

Scott Jones; Steve Kistler

The investigation of the Denham Springs police chief and captain may wind up costing the city more money as the state attorney general mulls whether the government can pay for the officers’ lawyers.

Chief Scott Jones and Capt. Steve Kistler were accused of covering up drug abuse by the then-head of the department’s narcotics unit. However, the city’s Civil Service Board dropped the case when the officers’ attorneys revealed their testimonies had been improperly recorded, in violation of state law.

In its Feb. 10 meeting, the council viewed a draft of a letter written by city attorney Paeton Burkett to the AG asking, in part, if the civil service board violated the law by hiring its own lawyer without approval from the state, and, if so, if the city can demand a refund. The board’s attorney has contested the suggestion.

After meeting in executive session, the council asked Burkett to make an addition to the draft. Monday, she shared with The Advocate the final version of the letter, which has been sent to the AG’s office.

It now also asks whether the city is “prohibited” from paying for Jones’s and Kistler’s legal representation “in light of the fact that … there was no official finding of wrongdoing and they were ultimately exonerated.”

Jones and Kistler paid their own legal expenses, which amounted to a combined $34,350, Burkett said.

The city has already paid $20,837 for the civil service board’s attorney.

The city has also asked the AG for guidance on a proposal to limit the council’s power during lame-duck sessions.

Councilman Robert Poole has suggested the city consider a new ordinance that would require the council to unanimously agree before putting zoning changes on a November or December agenda in election years.

When he introduced the plan last month, Poole referred to a divisive rezoning decision passed after the general election in November that allowed for the construction of a 272-unit apartment complex. Two of the three members who voted in favor of the rezoning did not seek re-election to the council.

The council ultimately decided to research the matter before taking it to a vote. Burkett has asked the AG to weigh in to see if there is a legal precedent that would prohibit the plan.

Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.