A photo of board members sitting behind their desks at a city council meeting. There are flags in the background and windows. There is also a TV in the background.

Baton Rouge Municipal Fire and Police Board Chairman refuses to step down despite court ruling

BATON ROUGE — Brandon Williams, the current chairman of the Baton Rouge Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, is refusing to step down despite a court ruling deeming him ineligible for the position.

Even though the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal has affirmed his disqualification, Williams not only attended the Feb. 26, 2024 meeting but also presided over it. Currently, he is in the process of appealing the court’s decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

A photo of board members sitting behind their desks at a city council meeting. There are flags in the background and windows. There is also a TV in the background.

Court filings

On Jan. 11, the First Circuit Court of Appeal released its decision reversing the 19th JDC’s ruling. The judicial court deemed that Williams was eligible to serve on the Fire & Police Civil Service Board despite serving two boards at the same time. The First Circuit reversed that decision.

Williams has appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court, but did not request a stay of the First Circuit’s decision, according to the court records obtained by UWK. This means that there is a question into the enforceability of the First Circuit’s decision until the application is granted or denied by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Williams argues that the First Circuit “used broad strokes that did not consider the details of how LHC is set up and what it does,” when it reached its decision.

Steven Irving, representing Williams, spoke with Unfiltered with Kiran about the rationale for the writ to the Supreme Court. Irvings states, “The basis for the writ is that we believe that the trial judge correctly decided the issue and the Court of Appeals incorrectly decided the issue, and we have asked the Supreme Court to decide who is right. There is no judgment.”

He continued, “The First Circuit opinion is not a final judgment so as far as I am concerned, there is no reason to depart from normal. I otherwise defer to the board’s attorney.”

UWK reached out to the Board’s attorney, but has not received a response as of this report.

Williams continues to preside

Based on Williams’ disqualification from office under Louisiana law as affirmed by the First Circuit, he should not preside over board meetings, according to BRPD Union attorney, Clifton Ivey. Disqualification from office makes an officer unable to serve in their capacity as a member of their respective board, according to Louisiana law.

But at the most recent civil service meeting, Williams served as chairman.

“As far as Monday’s meeting is concerned, Mr. Williams is on the board and did his duty,” said Irving.

In that meeting, the board discussed pressing topics like the new police chief’s status. Specifically, the board was tasked with removing Murphy Paul from the classified services and elevating Chief Morse to chief of police status.

There were only three qualified board members present at the Feb. 26 meeting, which excludes Williams, according to Ivey. Ivey believes that this questions the enforceability of the votes made, and any other decisions made by Williams.

What now?

According to the Baton Rouge Code of Ordinances, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council is given the authority to fill vacancies once an officer is disqualified. This item was placed and then removed from the Metro Council agenda a few weeks ago because there were not enough members to vote on the topic. Since then, the agenda has been silent as to Williams’ vacancy.

Ivey states that the Metro Council should be doing its job in this situation. Otherwise, if Williams continues to preside over the board meetings, there is a serious question as to the enforceability of those board decisions.

The Louisiana Supreme court received the writ on Feb. 6. Currently, the writ is pending review.

Williams’ term on the Municipal Fire & Police Civic Service Board expires July 23, 2024.

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