Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson will have to appear before the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council in two weeks to try to save her job.
Councilman LaMont Cole was able to move forward in his efforts to oust Batson from her post as the top official within the Parish Attorney's Office, getting the council Wednesday night to set a Jan. 23 public hearing after which the council could entertain a vote to fire her.
Cole's request for the public hearing received pushback initially from a majority of the Republicans on the Metro Council who tried to block the Batson hearing from the list of items up for introduction Wednesday night. Councilman Dwight Hudson moved to delete the Batson item from that list.
Cole immediately responded by offering a substitute motion to move forward with all the items, minus a measure to form a committee to study the various property tax rates within the parish, which Hudson was sponsoring along with council members Scott Wilson and Tara Wicker.
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The clashing motions from Cole and Hudson failed to get the required seven votes needed to pass from the 12-member council.
After the stalemate on both measures, the Metro Council unanimously agreed to introduce all 37 items on the list, thereby advancing the Batson proceedings.
Cole's substitute motion had failed on a 5-5-2 vote. He got supporting votes from Councilwomen Chauna Banks, Donna Collins-Lewis and Erika Green, with Councilman Chandler Loupe crossing party lines to side with the Democrats.
Loupe led the council's 2014 firing of former parish attorney Mary Roper, Batson's predecessor.
Roper’s removal was an acrimonious saga that stretched on for months. Batson was officially named parish attorney in April 2015. She has worked in the Parish Attorney's Office for nearly 30 years.
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Wicker, a Democrat, sided with Republicans Denise Amoroso, Barbara Freiberg, Scott Wilson, and Hudson in opposition to Cole's substitute motion. Republican Councilman Matt Watson was in the council chambers but did not vote on Cole's motion. Councilman Trae Welch, also a Republican, was absent from that vote.
Hudson's measure to stop the public hearing went down in a 5-6-1 vote. Amoroso, Freiberg, Watson and Wilson voted in support of Hudson's motion. Cole, Banks, Collins-Lewis, Wicker, Green and Loupe voted against it. Welch was absent from that vote as well.
In an interview after the meeting, Hudson said he enjoys working with Batson, "and from what I heard, her job performance has been good.
"None of her staff has reached out to me about concerns about her job performance," Hudson added. "To date, I don't see any reason for us to be doing this."
Cole, when asked after the meeting why he is seeking to remove Batson, said he had no comment.
Batson also had no comment when asked after Wednesday night's vote.
In a previously reported email Batson wrote Dec. 26, she said Cole is trying to fire her because he's interested in appointing her first assistant, Tedrick Knightstead, to the position.
Knightstead, meanwhile, has submitted a letter of resignation from the No. 2 spot on Batson's team of parish attorneys. His resignation is effective Jan. 31.
Knightshead has said previously his decision to leave the Parish Attorney's Office had nothing to do with Batson or any perceived issues with her.