The East Baton Rouge Metro Council voted to defer the item till the council meeting on Feb. 23rd. Several of the council members questioned the chief, one of his lawyers Jim Raines and Andy Dotson with the EBR City Parish Attorney’s Office. The meeting begins at 4pm and the item is #100 on the agenda.
The main question was since the last approved increase in Aug. 2021, why did the firm continue to work and send over bills that came up to $80,000. Council members are requesting a break down of the $80,000 before they can make a decision whether or not to approve this third increase.
Councilman Dwight Hudson requested to go into executive session saying it was to talk about the attorneys’ but did not specify. Dotson said they could not go into executive session.
So now, the council members hope to have a break-down of the $80,000 within the next two weeks.
——————————————————————————————————————–The East Baton Rouge Metro Council will listen to any and all people who want to speak up on the Baton Rouge Police chief once again requesting an increase for the two private lawyers who represent him in appeals hearings.
This would be the third time since 2020 that Chief Murphy Paul has gone to the council requesting an increase. The last time, Aug. 2021, the request was an increase from $78,000/year to $150,000/year. That request raised questions from the public and council members but the council still approved it. Now, Chief Paul is requesting another increase of $80,000. That means his budget for lawyers from the firm Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, LLP will go from $150,000 to $230,000 if approved.
“We chose to be transparent in the implement reform,” said Chief Paul to council members in 2021 when he requested an increase. “Just about every month, there is an appeal before the civil service board based on discipline that I’ve given.”
In an investigation brought to you by Unfiltered with Kiran the last time Chief Paul requested an increase in Aug. 2021, it comes across as a waste of taxpayer dollars when numerous officers lately have been able to get their discipline overturned. The civil service hearings, where Chief Paul has two private attorneys representing him since 2018, Jim Raines and Leo Hamilton, sometimes go for hours on end with the lawyers racking up a very large bill.
Plus, the city parish assigns an attorney specifically to the Baton Rouge Police Dept. that does not cost anything additional.
All chiefs, including prior to Chief Paul, have been able to use private attorneys if they desire as there is money set aside in every budget. In digging, Unfiltered with Kiran found going back to 2009, $33,000 was set aside annually for a police chief to use. In 2010, that amount increased to $39,000 annually. It stayed at $39,000 annually through 2019. At least three former police chiefs have said they can recall using private attorneys to represent them through appeals hearings but that they never had to request more than the allotted $39,000.
In 2020, Chief Paul requested an increase from $39,000/year to $78,000/year. In 2021, he asked for an another increase to $150,000. This will now be his third time requesting an increase to $230,000. That’s nearly six times the amount of money former police chiefs had allotted.
Going back to 2018, the City of Baton Rouge has paid out Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson 204 times as of Aug. 2021. That was a total of $217,084, which already exceeded the approved $150,000/year for 2021.
This time around though, there’s more reason to question the increase. Unfiltered with Kiran has learned the attorneys, Raines and Hamilton, have had complaints against them reported to the Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Council.
Both Raines and Hamilton have been credibly accused of serious violations in their professional conduct and may be under investigation by the disciplinary counsel.
The Office of Disciplinary Council cannot legally confirm or deny complaints.
“The Supreme Court specifically makes complaints confidential so we cannot acknowledge or deny any complaint. Even if there is a complaint, we cannot comment on it,” said Charles Plattsmier, Chief Disciplinary Council with the Office of Disciplinary Council.
Unfiltered with Kiran however is told through sources that Raines has been accused of knowingly allowing certain members of BRPD’s administration to offer false testimony in front of the civil service board in at least one recent hearing. That could be considered perjury. Plus, both Raines and Hamilton have also been accused of attempting to coerce a witness, who was a police officer, to testify differently than what that officer wanted to testify to. There’s also a complaint that the two lawyers allegedly told a BRPD officer not to show up to a civil service hearing even though that officer was under subpoena.
Raines has not responded to Unfiltered with Kiran’s requests for a comment, but Hamilton’s legal assistant Chris O’Neil responded on his behalf.
“Mr. Hamilton is currently on a medical leave of absence and is therefore unavailable for an interview. For your information, the LSBA does not accept complaints against lawyers. Lawyer complaints are handled by the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. The LADB has no record of any complaints against Mr. Hamilton,” said O’Neil.
To explain the process, complaints are made to the Disciplinary Council. Once the complaints are investigated, if there are complaints and if they’re worthy of investigating, they are then turned over to the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board.
Because the requested increase is tax dollars and the item must be approved by council members, you the public have every right to speak up for or against the increase. However, majority of times, because the public does not show up and speak up, council members do not get a true sense of how the public feels about their dollars being spent. So if you’re for or against this item, you need to be at the council meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 26th on the 3rd floor of city hall. The item is question is on the agenda as item #101. Anyone wishing to speak up must complete a form with your name on it so the mayor pro-temp will be able to call you to the podium by name.