Civil Service Board affirms firing of ex-Denham Springs police chief Scott Jones; appeal in the works _lowres

Paul Scott Jones

Denham Springs’ mayor, city attorney, interim police chief and two city councilmen are among two dozen witnesses subpoenaed to testify during former Police Chief Scott Jones’ appeal of his termination.

The hearing before the city’s Civil Service Board will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday and is expected to last three days.

Jones was fired April 7 after a mayor-appointed committee investigated the Police Department’s handling of a 911 call involving Councilman Chris Davis and found that the chief and his second-in-command, Capt. Steve Kistler, had violated state law and departmental policies.

Police issued a summons to Davis, rather than arresting him, following a Jan. 15 altercation with his wife that resulted in her sustaining a head injury. Both Davises have since said the injury was an accident.

Mayor Gerard Landry and City Attorney Stephanie Hulett, who served as one of three members of the investigative committee, will now have to testify about their actions in the case, according to a list of witnesses subpoenaed for the hearing.

Hulett said Wednesday that she was unsure whether her being both a witness and the city’s lawyer during the appeal would present a conflict.

“I was not planning to testify,” Hulett said. “I had subpoenaed the other two people on the committee who could testify to the same information. I was subpoenaed by Chief Jones’ attorney.”

The other two committee members were Councilman and former Police Chief Jeff Wesley and the city’s human resources director, Gary Watson.

Hulett said Jones’ attorney, Benjamin Chapman, had not objected to her serving as the city’s counsel during the hearing.

Also on the witness list are Interim Police Chief Shannon Womack and 13 other officers, including Kistler, who was fired April 7 along with Jones.

The Davises were subpoenaed as well, although at least part of their testimony is likely to be heard in executive session.

The city obtained a protective order May 2 that shields from public view any investigative documents or testimony related to Chris Davis’ criminal case. Davis has pleaded not guilty to domestic abuse battery stemming from the Jan. 15 incident with his wife and entered a pretrial diversion program.

Hulett said she expects at least one other witness’ testimony to be heard partly behind closed doors — that of Officer Wesley Clarkson, who responded to the 911 call.

“Any testimony that involves what happened after the fact, though, will be heard in open meeting,” Hulett said. “We will split it.”

Jones has claimed in his petition of appeal that the city violated provisions of state law commonly referred to as the Police Officer Bill of Rights. Those rights include receiving notice of the nature of the investigation and of the disciplinary action to be taken.

Jones also claims that his firing was without cause, was too severe and was not done in good faith.

The city has denied those claims and provided the Civil Service Board a copy of the Feb. 17 “notice of investigation” letter hand-delivered to Jones, the April 1 findings of the investigative committee and the April 7 termination letter.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.