Judge rules former Hammond police chief improperly terminated

HAMMOND -- A Tangipahoa Parish judge has ruled the 2015 firing of former Hammond Police Chief Roddy Devall was not "made in good faith for cause," opening the door for Devall's return to the position.

The decision came Monday, July 3, but both parties were made aware of it Wednesday, July 5.

In November 2015, Mayor Pete Panepinto fired Devall after he authorized an April 2014 press release about an officer's felony arrest.

The press release included the officer's picture and address, which the officer claimed was a violation of her privacy rights under civil service law. Devall was on paid administrative leave since May 2014, pending a civil service investigation into the matter. Previous Mayor Mayson Foster made the decision to put Devall on leave.

Following his firing, Devall sued the city, claiming the press release was not in violation of state law or any department or city rules, policies or procedures. The issue has bounced from the city's civil service board to federal courtrooms during the past three years before finally reaching the 21st Judicial District Court.

In that time, the city hired a new police chief, James Stewart, who has held the position for a year this month. 

While Devall's attorney, Ron Macaluso, said the ruling vacates the termination, effectively requiring his client be re-instated to the police chief position, it does allow the city to reconsider an alternative punishment for the press release incident.

But Macaluso said the ruling cites that punishment can only come from a Hammond police order that limits the options for a first time offense in this category from a letter of reprimand to a maximum two-day suspension.

Macaluso said Devall is elated the court found no basis for his termination and he looks forward to returning as chief of police.

Before the firing, Devall had held the post for more than 30 years, under eight mayors, with no prior disciplinary history.

The city said it was too soon to say how it will respond to the ruling or handle Stewart's employment.

"We just received the decision," a spokeswoman said. "The mayor is reviewing it and will determine what is in the best interest of the City of Hammond."

Stewart deferred comment to the mayor.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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