The chief and captain of the Denham Springs Police Department will appear for pre-disciplinary hearings before the city’s Civil Service Board in January after a fired officer complained they mishandled another officer who developed a drug addiction.
Chief Scott Jones and Capt. Steve Kistler have been accused of numerous infractions, including “unwillingness or failure to perform the duties of (their) position in a satisfactory manner,” said board attorney Henry Olinde.
Neither has been found guilty and both will have the opportunity to present their sides of the story to the board — Kistler on Jan. 5 and Jones on Jan. 8. If the board finds either acted inappropriately, members can request the mayor take disciplinary action from a formal reprimand to dismissal.
The board began investigating Jones and Kistler in October after former police Officer Jared Kreamer brought a litany of complaints against the two. Many involved his professional relationship with Kistler, his superior. In a written appeal of his termination, Kreamer said Kistler “singled out and bullied” him and created a “hostile work environment” in the months leading up to his firing in August.
“The captain is taking his own personal vendetta against who he wants, when he wants,” Kreamer testified in an October hearing.
The former officer said his trouble began in late 2011, when he was working as a narcotics officer. A known drug user twice admitted to selling drugs to Sgt. Russell Munsell — buys that did not appear to be work-related, Kreamer said.
He recorded one of the alleged drug dealer’s statements and turned it over to a supervisor. Kreamer also said Munsell told him he had accepted some Roxicodone from a neighbor after an injury.
After he turned over the recording, Kreamer testified he was never contacted or asked to provide a statement about Munsell’s alleged drug use. He said that to his knowledge, the department did not investigate the matter, a breach of protocol.
Munsell “disappeared” for several weeks but resumed his work in the narcotics unit when he returned, Kreamer said.
“The man needed help. ... I felt the department set that man up for failure,” he said, referring to the decision to allow the sergeant to continue working in drug enforcement.
Attempts to reach Munsell on Monday were unsuccessful. He resigned from the department Nov. 16, after the board investigation began, but did not give a reason, Olinde said.
Kreamer said his “career went downhill” after turning over the recording and that he faced internal affairs investigations and suspensions from Kistler afterward. He blamed Jones for allowing them to continue.
“That’s a failure on the chief’s part to manage employees,” he testified.
On Thursday, the board voted to hold separate pre-disciplinary hearings for Jones and Kistler in January. Both hearings will be at 6 p.m. in the Denham Springs Municipal Building and will be open to the public.
“Nobody can jump to conclusions until after those hearings take place in fairness to (Jones and Kistler),” Olinde said.
Mayor-elect Gerard Landry, who will be responsible for carrying out any recommended punishments, said he was aware of the case, but he has not been in contact with the Civil Service Board about the matter. He said he will wait to hear the board’s decision and confer with the city attorney.
“We’ll do whatever we need to do, obviously,” he said.
Jones declined to comment on the matter Monday.
Kistler said he had not been given official notice of the hearing and did not want to talk about specifics of the case but said he wanted to “cover things I think were missed (in the investigation)” and that he felt confident “all the misunderstandings will be cleared up.”
“In my heart, I know I have not done anything to violate civil service law, department procedure or any other law. ... I’m looking forward to actually being able to get my side out, too,” he said.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.