A former officer with the Broussard Police Department who voiced concerns about inappropriate behavior by the chief and assistant chief during his employment has filed a lawsuit against the city.
The suit, filed Wednesday in the 15th Judicial District Court, alleges violations of state discrimination and whistleblower retaliation laws meant to protect employees. It also includes allegations of sexual harassment by the Police Department's top two leaders, who have been the subject of a city investigation expected to wrap up by the end of the week.
Plaintiff Ryan Alexander Savoie said in the lawsuit that he received unwelcome, inappropriate texts, Snapchat messages and Snapchat photos from Police Chief Brannon Decou throughout his employment with the Police Department from May 2019 to May 2020. Savoie also alleges that Assistant Police Chief Christopher Galvez frequently made sexually suggestive, inappropriate comments during conversations and staff meetings throughout his employment.
Savoie consistently objected to the sexual advances, gestures and comments Decou and Galvez directed to him and others in his presence, according to the lawsuit, and eventually Savoie would lose his job for voicing his concerns.
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Savoie didn't file a formal complaint against the chief or assistant chief until his wife was allegedly sexually harassed by Galvez during the Police Department's 2019 Christmas party, according to the lawsuit.
Both Savoie and his wife, who works for another law enforcement agency but is not named in the lawsuit, filed complaints about the Christmas party interaction, which included a variation of a vulgar question about oral sex preferences that Galvez allegedly asked on a regular basis to newly hired officers, including Savoie. He lodged a complaint internally within the Broussard Police Department, and her complaint was filed with an external law enforcement agency.
Decou allegedly called Savoie's wife on her cell phone in March 2020 and "attempted to intimidate her into saying that her formal complaint against Galvez was false." She began experiencing symptoms of a panic attack during the call, according to the lawsuit, at which point Savoie took his wife's phone and spoke directly to Decou.
In April 2020, three employees were confirmed at the Broussard Police Department, which gave them civil service protection, but Savoie was not among them, the lawsuit says. Savoie was not notified in writing of the non-confirmation, according to the lawsuit, as required by police department policy and civil service law.
His non-confirmation allowed Decou to "suddenly and unexpectedly" instruct Savoie to resign in lieu of being terminated in May 2020, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit alleges Savoie only learned of the non-confirmation when he tried to appeal his dismissal to the Civil Service Board but was told he could not lodge an appeal without prior confirmation.
Broussard Police Chief Brannon Decou announced his retirement Monday afternoon as the city continues its investigation into sexual harassment …
At that point, Savoie filed for unemployment, noting a "hostile work environment" as the basis for discharge, the lawsuit said, which was not opposed by the Broussard Police Department.
The lawsuit alleges that Decou actively worked to prevent Savoie from obtaining or retaining subsequent employment after he left the Broussard Police Department.
"For example, Decou contacted the Iberia Chief of Police on or about June 20, 2020, and informed him Plaintiff had received numerous verbal reprimands and write-ups, none of which actually occurred," the lawsuit says.
Even after Savoie began working for the Lafayette Police Department, Decou allegedly contacted LPD to inform staff that Savoie had "violated policy several times" even though he never received a write-up or reprimand, according to the suit. Decou also allegedly tried to have Savoie's wife fired from her current employer.
Savoie is seeking an unspecified amount in excess of $75,000 from the city of Broussard, the only named defendant in the case, for lost wages, employment benefits, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.
The lawsuit was filed two days after Decou announced his retirement from his elected position and one day after Galvez was fired "for failure to pursue employee complaints and causing a lack of confidence within the police department."
City leaders are expected to announce in the coming days the results of an investigation into the police department that was launched last month after sexual harassment complaints by former officers were made public in an Acadiana Advocate story.
The assistant police chief of Broussard was fired Tuesday for failing to properly address sexual harassment complaints, according to minutes f…