HAMMOND, La. -- An on-going battle between the Hammond police chief and the city’s civil service board will soon hit a new level.
Friday, the parties will meet face-to-face to address the group’s investigation into Roddy Devall, per a judge’s orders.
The situation dates back to April 29, when a press release was issued about Officer Jennifer Payne Gauthier being arrested on drug-related charges.
More than two weeks later, the city's civil service board started an investigation into whether Devall violated the officer's rights by releasing her address in that announcement, then placed him on administrative leave.
Since then, Devall was allowed back to work this week by a federal judge, after his attorney Jill Craft questioned the legality of the board's actions.
"We had filed a suit in federal court last week on the count of the fact that his rights are clearly being violated,” Craft said. “It was escalated by the board itself when they issued an agenda basically proposing to take action against Chief Devall for even filing the federal lawsuit."
Craft maintains the chief was just following the law, which requires all criminal booking information be public record.
“I’m not sure why they continue to perpetrate this foolishness, this witch hunt, but we're here to fight it," she said.
We stopped by the Baton Rouge office of the special attorney that's representing the board in this situation, looking for an interview, but we were told the board has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.
However, civil service attorney Raymond Burkart said the board has the right to investigate, but the way it's being done is hurting the case.
"A lot of the problem is you have a bunch of attorneys bumping into each other like a gaggle of geese, who don't really understand civil service law and it seems as if no one is getting a full compliment of information and legal advice that would assist them to figure out what exactly happened," he said.
On the flip side, Burkart said bringing the situation to the federal level was unnecessary.
"The fact that you would go to federal court over a civil service investigation when they’re legally empowered to do this is absolutely ridiculous," he said.
With the first sit-down between the two groups set for Friday morning, per a judge’s orders, most are hoping cooler heads prevail.
"It’s time for everybody to calm down, let the investigation take its course and see what happens and assign the appropriate remedies and legal actions, if it’s necessary, when it’s done," Burkart said.
No word on when the board will complete its investigation, though the law allows them 60 days to do so. The restraining order will stay in place until the court rules otherwise.