NEW ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury will have to fork over $1,500 in settlements to the parish’s former administrator and one of its department heads who both sued former Juror Albert Dukes for abusive behavior toward them while he was in office, a state district judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Pro Tempore Edward “Jimmy” Gaidry also ordered the parish to reimburse the filing costs incurred by Jim Bello, who retired as parish administrator in 2014, and Parks and Recreation Director Salvadore Genusa.
In their lawsuit against Dukes and the Police Jury, filed in January 2013, both men accused Dukes of damaging their professional reputations through public statements he made alleging they were incompetent in their jobs. And the lawsuit criticized the Police Jury for not properly correcting Dukes’ behavior following a physical altercation between Genusa and Dukes after a jury meeting in January 2012.
In a ruling from the bench Thursday, Gaidry awarded Genusa $500 in damages for Dukes’ physical assault on the department head. And the judge ordered that both men receive $500 each in damages for the hostile work environment that Dukes, who lost his bid for re-election last year, created by overstepping his authority as an elected official.
“I think the judge made the right decision in finding it a hostile work environment. Those cases are pretty tough to prove, and we obviously proved our case,” attorney Cy D’Aquila said after the ruling Thursday. “This is a good ruling to show elected officials, ‘Hey, just because you are an elected official, you can’t just do whatever you want to.’ ”
Gaidry praised Dukes for being an effective civil rights leader in the parish but chastised him for what he characterized as his bullying behavior toward Bello and Genusa.
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Dukes said in an interview following the ruling. “I think, in most cases, when blacks speak up, they’re obviously going to be called a bully or a radical. It is what it is.”
About the ruling, Dukes added, “Doesn’t sound like it was a victory for them at all, to me.”
In their lawsuit’s claims against Dukes, Genusa accused Dukes of trying to manage the day-to-day operations of the parish’s Parks and Recreation Department. The suit further accused Dukes waging a personal vendetta after the parks department head, who is white, pressed charges against a black woman who was accused of assaulting Genusa in 2012 when he was trying to break up a fight during a softball game.
The lawsuit said Dukes, who is black, threatened to have Genusa fired if he didn’t drop the assault charges placed against the woman and at one point got into a physical altercation with Genusa after a Police Jury meeting.
Dukes also was cited in the lawsuit for wrongfully accusing Bello of misappropriating public funds and demanding the parish administrator be suspended from his job without pay.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.