‘Taskforce’ questions Marksville assistant chief appointment
Although an Attorney General’s opinion has been cited in support of the recent appointment of an assistant police chief, and the Marksville City Council has not raised any objections in the past few months, the issue “is not going away,” Rev. Charles Guillory said.
Guillory, representing the Avoyelles Coalition Taskforce, and Rev. Allen Holmes, of the Avoyelles NAACP chapter, have questioned the propriety of Mayor John Lemoine’s appointment of Jason Brouillette to be assistant chief.
The two had requested public records -- including the City Charter and employment/ promotion policies and procedures for the Police Department -- after Lemoine appointed Brouillette at the April 16 council meeting, invoking his 90-day emergency appointment authority.
ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OPINION
Lemoine sought and received an Attorney General’s opinion on the appointment which indicated the mayor and police chief could appoint an “internal affairs investigator” without council approval.
Guillory said the opinion “made no reference, nor did it address, a combination of the newly created position of internal affairs investigator also being appointed assistant police chief, with the two being one in the same.”
Guillory said Lemoine told him the appointment was not a promotion in rank or an increase in pay. Lemoine said it is a “lateral move” from one position in the department to another.
Guillory said he does not see how that could be the case. He conceded that being assigned duties of an internal affairs investigator could be a lateral move.
However, becoming assistant chief “is a promotion above other officers in rank and pay. The position of assistant police chief is a position of rank next to the chief, even though it may carry assigned duties as internal affairs investigator.”
He said the appointment “was not done properly. The mayor said it is not a promotion, but how can someone be placed in a supervisory position over officers of higher rank?”
Guillory said the issue is not a “black/white” issue, but one of following established policies, procedures and guidelines to be fair to all officers who might want the opportunity to apply for the position.
“This is not an issue of us trying to push for a minority assistant chief, although there are some black officers of higher rank and seniority,” Guillory said. “It is the principle involved.”
He said Lemoine and Police Chief Elster Smith “could have misrepresented the situation to the attorney general to get a favorable opinion.
“The issue never was about the mayor and chief’s authority to assign a police officer the duties of an internal affairs investigator,” Guillory continued. “It was about following the proper procedures for re-activating the position of assistant chief, taking applications for that position and filling that position.”
‘DOESN’T LOOK RIGHT’
Guillory said the appointment may be completely justified and Brouillette could be the best person for that job, but it “doesn’t look right.
“There needs to be criteria established for that position and filling the position should be done fairly according to established guidelines and not with the mayor taking the position that he has sole authority to make the appointment of whomever he wants because he is the mayor,” he said.
When Guillory appeared at the June council meeting to discuss the assistant police chief issue, “the mayor shut me down. They talked about coyotes in town for 15 minutes or longer, but when I wanted to talk about a serious issue affecting the way this city is operated, the mayor tells me ‘You’re five minutes are up.’”
City Council member Mike Gremillion, who has the position of police commissioner under the City Charter, said he was involved in the decision to appoint Brouillette as assistant chief. He said Brouillette has experience in MPD and other law enforcement agencies and was considered a good choice for the position.
“There was no pay increase for that 90-day period,” Gremillion said. “It was done for a 90-day test period to see if there would be improvements in the department, and there has been.”
Gremillion said Lemoine has authority to make 90-day appointments “and can continue to make that appointment forever.”
In a letter to Lemoine and council members, Guillory and Holmes asked that Lemoine “not make an additional 90-day reappointment of the assistant chief/internal affairs investigator, as he has stated he has power and authority to do (and) as was done.”
“We recommend that the internal affairs investigator position be reappointed at the mayor’s discretion, if he so desires, which was approved by the attorney general’s office, without the attachment of the position of assistant chief of police,” the two men wrote.
Guillory and Holmes also asked that if the mayor deems an assistant police chief is needed, the position be filled using “governing directives with respect to applicable state law, ordinances and Civil Service rules and regulations.”
Guillory said the Taskforce and NAACP have not ruled out legal action should a review by their legal counsel indicate a need to do so.