On Friday, June 30, 2023, counsel for both the City of Youngsville and Chief of Police Rickey Boudreaux presented their arguments to the court. This comes months after the March 30, 2023, special meeting wherein the Council for the City of Youngsville introduced a resolution to “request and direct the Mayor of the City of Youngsville to invoke and secure an independent internal investigation of the Chief of Police Rickey Boudreaux to be conducted as soon as possible.” Why? According to the resolution, because “the Governing Authority has been apprised of potential improprieties within the police department, specifically the conduct of Chief Rickey Boudreaux.”
Citizens for a New Louisiana voiced concern over any form of “internal” investigation when we informed the public of the tangled web surrounding the City. Ken Stansbury (R 6/10) moved for the adoption of the resolution and it was seconded by Simone Champagne (R 7/10). The resolution passed unanimously. However, Mayor Ken Ritter quickly commented that the inclusion of the word “internal” was a typo, which would be removed. The Council would later adopt another resolution amending the budget to allocate $10,000 to fund an outside law firm to perform the investigation. No further action has been taken.
Why the hold up?
Despite publicly declaring at the March 30, 2023 special council meeting that he welcomed any investigation into the affairs of his office, Chief Rickey Boudreaux apparently changed his mind. On May 3, 2023 Boudreaux’s lawyer filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief with the District Court seeking to block the investigation.
Since the March special meeting, one would expect things to quieten down a bit. That hasn’t happened. We broke the story following the resignation of Sergeant Brian Baumgardner from the Youngsville Police Civil Service Board. He cited retaliation concerns as his reason for stepping down. Likewise, we closely monitored the election to fill that vacant seat and reported on obvious election rigging. Since that time, a second election resulted in a different outcome. Now, back to the suit.
Agreeing to disagree – summary judgement
Wade Trahan, representing the City of Youngsville, indicated in his memorandum in support that the Lawrason Act “contains no provision [forbidding] the City from authorizing a fact-finding investigation in connection with the City’s chief of police’s conduct.” Pat Magee, representing Chief Rickey Boudreaux, argued the counter in his memorandum stating “the Lawrason Act [forbids] the City from authorizing an investigation in connection with the elected chief of police.”
Summary judgment is a procedure contained in the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 966 “designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.” If there is “no genuine issue as to material fact” the mover is entitled to a judgment in their favor. A single party moving for summary judgment is not rare, but it is somewhat unique for both parties to file opposing motions for summary judgment. Although the parties will be allowed to brief the court again before a judgment is rendered, this may not decide the matter. There is a possibility that the judge may take a third option. Although less likely, he may simply deny both motions. If that were to occur the matter would not be resolved and could possibly move to a trial.
Also, noteworthy is what constitutes evidence in a summary judgment hearing. In support of his position Trahan filed two exhibits – Resolution No. 2023-09 which authorized funding for the investigation into Chief Boudreaux and minutes from the May 11, 2023 meeting in which that resolution was adopted. Both items are public records and thus are “self-authenticating.” It is interesting to note that Trahan didn’t file any exhibits concerned with Resolution No. 2023-08. Why? More on that in a second.
Magee, in support of his position, filed a two-page affidavit executed by Chief Boudreaux. The affidavit essentially outlines that Boudreaux has been elected as Chief on several occasions and that the City of Youngsville has been ranked amongst the “safest cities” in Louisiana several years by SafeWise. Boudreaux also mentioned this safest cities opinion at the Special Meeting in March. When pressed to provide records supporting his position, he was only able to provide reference to a news article and various websites, such as backgroundchecks.org.
Boudreaux cites LARS 33:404(A)(3) which deals with the powers and duties of the Mayor. It reads the Mayor has the power “subject to applicable state law, ordinances, and civil service rules and regulations, to, appoint and remove municipal employees other than the employees of a police department with an elected chief of police.” Boudreaux then takes an enormous leap and states: “…the elected chief is not subject to any investigation or discipline because the statute succinctly states, an elected police chief is excluded.” Feel free to read it again, but it clearly restricts the Mayor from appointing and removing employees of a police department managed by an elected chief of police. While the Mayor may not be in a position to appoint, remove or even discipline an elected chief, there is nothing in the statute that prohibits him from conducting an investigation.
Boudreaux then cites an Attorney General’s opinion in support of his position. It indicated that the “municipality does not have the authority to initiate or conduct an investigation of the City’s elected Chief of Police.” This was an opinion that was requested by the Chief of Police for the City of Eunice. There is nothing in the opinion to indicate whether the Council of the City of Eunice adopted any legislation in order to conduct an investigation, nor is there anything to indicate the scope and breadth of the investigation. In fact, in the opening paragraph the Attorney General’s Office writes: “Your request does not provide any factual basis on which such an investigation might be instituted.” The Attorney General goes on to allege that it is also the opinion of his office that the municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board lacks the authority to initiate and conduct an investigation into an elected Chief of Police.
Investigation doesn’t equal discipline
Boudreaux, perhaps concerned with weakness of his argument, then claims “whether actively of passively looking into facts…. an investigation where one branch of government is searching for bad deeds by a different branch of government, in order to discipline, demote or remove an elected person from office” is prohibited because investigation precedes discipline; therefore, any steps in preface or furtherance of are clearly barred by statute.”
However, Boudreaux and the Council have both essentially agreed that the Council has no authority to discipline, demote, or remove an elected Chief. However, that doesn’t mean an investigation into the affairs of a department of the City of Youngsville is not warranted or that it should not be conducted. Boudreaux then continues to conflate an investigation with discipline. He claims that the Council is “attempting to usurp the rights of its voters” (by attempting to investigate matters of public concern) and refers to the proceedings as “political theatrics.” But to what end? Again, the Council does not contend that they have any authority to discipline or remove the elected Chief from office. They simply contend that they have the authority to order the Mayor to conduct an investigation. So what do they hope to achieve?
One of the most interesting parts of Boudreaux’s brief is the assertion that he is a “police officer” pursuant to LARS 40:1372(5). That reads: “Employee” means any employee of the division of state police in the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.” So in addition to being the elected Chief of Police, Boudreaux claims he is also a state trooper? Either he didn’t disclose that in his financial disclosure reports to the state (a potential violation of state law) or he is making intentional misrepresentations to the court.
Boudreaux then attempts to build on this assertion by claiming he has “statutory safeguards” under the officer’s bill of rights (LARS 40:2531) That section states: “The provisions of this Chapter shall apply only to police employees as defined by R.S. 40:1372(5), Louisiana P.O.S.T. certified probation and parole officers employed by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, division of probation and parole, and to those law enforcement officers employed by any municipality and campus police employed at any state-supported college or university who are under investigation with a view to possible disciplinary action, demotion, or dismissal.” Boudreaux does not fit into any of the categories of police officers listed. Additionally, Boudreaux is not “under investigation with a view to possible disciplinary action, demotion, or dismissal.” Both sides have already conceded that point.
The memorandum submitted by the City of Youngsville is much more concise and on point. The memorandum quickly points out that this is a question of “statutory construction” and “…whether any provision of the Lawrason Act prohibits a municipality from conducting a fact-finding investigation of an elected chief of police.” Youngsville accurately points out that the investigation “…does not restrict, alter, or interfere” with the inherent powers of the Chief. He may behave like an elected chief or not. He may assign personnel duties. He may continue to spend city funds budgeted to his office. None of that changes. An investigation of things that have already transpired in no way interrupts his ability to operate a police department.
Youngsville indicates that “none of these measures, employed in furtherance the goal of providing transparency to the City’s constituents” interfere with the authority of Chief. Youngsville also refers to the need “… to evaluate its potential exposure for conduct of the Chief” and indicates that complaints received are not solely relegated to the Reaux incident but include “several other matters of significant public concern.” Considering the concerns of retaliation by members of the Youngsville Police Department, it only makes since that there could be significant exposure to financial liability which the City would be responsible for paying. But if that is the case, why was that not made clear in the resolutions passed by the Council for the City of Youngsville? Why wasn’t Resolution No. 2023-08 introduced into evidence in support of the investigation?
Flaws in Youngsville’s argument
The people of Louisiana know all too well about fatal flaws. Remember during the plandemic when the legislature finally worked up the courage to petition the court to take action to stop the executive overreach of the Governor? When the matter finally made it to court, the Judge said that the issue was moot because the petition to end the state of emergency dealt with a specific executive order that had already expired. Could we be looking at something similar in Youngsville?
Resolution No. 2023-08 only focused on one thing: Rickey Boudreaux. They made it clear that the “Governing Authority has been apprised of potential improprieties within the police department, specifically the conduct of Chief Rickey Boudreaux.” There was no mention at the time the resolution was discussed or passed that it had to do with anything other than Boudreaux. No concern over liability exposure. No concern over whether the employees of the Police Department were being subjected to unlawful and hostile work environments. Even if these concerns arose later, no action has been taken to revise the resolution that was passed by the council.
Was this a deliberate and intentional action to tank the investigation before it ever started? Is it, as Boudreaux himself proclaimed, nothing more than “political theatrics?” But to what end? Well, it could be that the Council wanted to hold themselves up as the “good guys,” the champions of the people, and individuals who truly believe in transparency.