Denham Springs — The Louisiana attorney general is being called to investigate the Denham Springs Civil Service Board, which last month abandoned its own investigation of the city police chief and captain due to improperly recorded interviews.
Tuesday evening, the Denham Springs City Council voted to ask the AG’s office to review the case. However, the state won’t be looking at the tapes but will examine whether the Civil Service Board followed the laws governing the hiring and payment of their attorney, Henry Olinde.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the council viewed a letter drafted by City Attorney Paeton Burkett seeking opinions on six matters.
The city is asking if the Civil Service Board even has the authority to conduct predisciplinary hearings.
They are also wondering if the board must receive the blessing of the council or the AG before hiring a lawyer.
The city has paid “over $20,000” in attorney fees related to the investigation, the letter states. The city is asking if it can put a limit on how much the Civil Service Board can spend on legal counsel.
The letter also asks if it is appropriate for the board to hire an attorney while conducting a hearing or investigation. If not, the city is asking if it can demand reimbursement.
After meeting in executive session, the council voted to add language specifically asking for reimbursement for the attorney fees accrued in the recent investigation.
Councilman Chris Davis, who requested the letter be written, pointed to a Louisiana statute that states “any attorney who knowingly accepts employment and compensation from … (a) local board … not previously approved by the attorney general must immediately upon notification thereof return a like dollar amount of funds to the public body which paid such prohibited compensation.”
Davis said that while he appreciates the civil service board members’ work, “at the end of the day, the money being spent is the people’s money. … There has to be some sort of oversight.”
Civil Service Board Chairman Clay Gillespie, a city police sergeant, attended Tuesday’s meeting but declined to comment on the matter, saying he wanted to read the final version of the city’s letter to the Attorney General before responding.
Olinde, the attorney, could not be reached by phone for comment after Tuesday’s meeting.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter @SteveRHardy.