Former Denham Springs police Capt. Steve Kistler has filed a pair of lawsuits against the city and its Civil Service Board, asking a judge to reverse his firing and to recuse most of the board members scheduled to hear his appeal next month.
Kistler was fired, along with former Chief Scott Jones, on April 7 after a mayoral investigative committee determined the two officers had violated state laws and department policies in the handling of a domestic violence complaint involving a city councilman.
The Civil Service Board upheld Jones’ termination in a 4-0 vote on June 1, with board member Thomas Lay absent. Jones has appealed that ruling to the 21st Judicial District Court in Livingston.
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Kistler’s appeal to the Civil Service Board is slated to begin Aug. 1.
In his lawsuit against the city, filed June 30, the former captain says the investigative committee violated the state’s open meetings laws by failing to tell him when and where it would meet to interview witnesses and discuss issues related to his competence as an employee. The illegal meetings, he said, should void his termination.
Kistler’s lawsuit against the Civil Service Board, filed July 1, claims the four board members who upheld Jones’ termination already made up their minds about the captain’s guilt as well and should be recused from hearing his appeal.
The petition for recusal also notes that Civil Service Board member John “Clay” Gillespie, the Police Department’s representative the board, previously filed an action against Kistler and recused himself from a prior hearing involving the captain.
Kistler’s attorney, Steve LeBlanc, said Thursday he had suggested to City Attorney Stephanie Hulett that Kistler’s appeal hearing be postponed until the court rules on the two lawsuits.
“Until the judge rules on the recusal, it’s pointless to have a hearing that may be moot,” LeBlanc said.
Hulett said it would be up to the Civil Service Board to determine whether the appeal hearing should be rescheduled.
She said the investigative committee — on which she served as a member — was not required to comply with the state’s open meetings laws because it was a fact-finding body appointed by the mayor, not a City Council committee.
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LeBlanc said the four Civil Service Board members who upheld Jones’ termination said in their ruling that Councilman Chris Davis should not have been issued a summons following an overnight altercation with his wife Jan. 14-15.
Davis’ wife called 911 after receiving a head injury during the argument. Both Davises later said the injury was an accident.
Police initially obtained a warrant for Chris Davis’ arrest, but after Robyn Davis recanted, Kistler chose to issue him a summons instead.
LeBlanc said if the board members already have decided the summons should not have been issued, they already have determined his client’s guilt.
“If we go before those four members, they’re shooting fish in a barrel,” LeBlanc said. “How can I try a case before those people, who’ve already made up their minds? Our job as attorneys is to make sure our clients have a fair hearing, and I don’t think he’ll get one with that tribunal.”
Chris Davis was later arrested on a warrant obtained by the District Attorney’s Office. He has pleaded not guilty to a count of domestic abuse battery and entered a pretrial diversion program.
Robyn Davis successfully petitioned the court to dissolve the restraining order that automatically issued against her husband when he was arrested.
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