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.

EBR Councilman opposes bill that would change board eligibility for only one person

BATON ROUGE – On April 26, EBR Metro Council will have a public hearing on a resolution showing the council’s opposition to a proposed bill.

“The legislation certainly seems to be drafted in such a way to only impact one individual, Mr. Williams,” said EBR Councilman Dwight Hudson.

The legislation involves the status of Baton Rouge Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service board members (“MFPCSB”) who hold certain positions in public employment, while serving on the board.

The MFPCSB is the board where Baton Rouge Police officers and BR firefighters who are disciplined, can appeal their discipline before an unbiased board of five members. Their decisions can often impact officers’ and firefighters’ entire lives.

Municipal Board Chair Brandon Williams

Current Board Chair Brandon Williams’ eligibility has been questioned a few times. He’s currently going through the legal battle after he was arrested in Oct. 2020 accused of simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling & theft over $25,000. It’s why last year, the BR police union asked for Williams to step down.

When Williams was first appointed in June 2019 as the LSU appointee, he did not live within the city limits of Baton Rouge, which was required in order to serve on the board. It’s why he had to resign from the board in early 2020. However, State Reps. Denise Marcelle & Ted James authored a change in the law. In Aug. 2020, Act 142 became law and allowed certain appointees on the board (LSU, Southern & Metro Council appointees) to live anywhere in East Baton Rouge Parish instead of limiting it only to within city limits.

There are multiple municipal fire and police civil boards throughout the state of Louisiana. Act 142 only applied to the Baton Rouge Municipal Fire & Police Civil Service Board.

It’s why six weeks later on Oct. 14, 2020, Williams was reappointed to the board, this time as the Metro-Council appointee.

Now, nearly three years later, history is repeating itself.

Williams’ eligibility is in question again and State Rep. Marcelle has once again proposed a bill in the current session that would allow Williams to continue serving on the board. The proposed bill once again only applies to the Baton Rouge Municipal Fire & Police Civil Service Board.

It’s why this time, EBR Councilman Hudson wants it known that council members do not support this bill. He has introduced a resolution in opposition that will be discussed at the April 26 council meeting.

“The role of the civil service board is that they have an impact on our police officers and firefighters’ careers. So we want the board members to be fully focused on that board and if you’re serving on multiple boards, then your full attention is not on this board,” said Hudson.

Marcelle said the purpose of the bill is to clarify the law.

“There’s already been a ruling a judge that the lay member that serves on their (MFPCSB) board can also serve on another board,” she said. “I think the intent of the law as written currently intends for elected officials not to be able to serve in those capacities, but not lay members.

“My intention is to clarify the law and a judge has already clarified it,” she said. “My understanding is that the law is clear, but I want to make sure it’s crystal clear that somebody can serve on the fire and municipal board and also serve on another board. I’m just trying to make sure people can serve. It’s hard enough to find qualified people and we don’t want to bar anyone from serving.”

Marcelle stressed the importance of finding qualified people to serve on boards such as the MFPCSB.

“I believe that it is hard enough for us to find business-minded, educated people who understand those boards, number one, and that are willing to serve number two, so any opportunity to make sure that we have that viable way for them to serve is crucial,” she said.

She said no one from the metro council reached out to her and she questioned why a resolution in opposition to the bill was drafted before anyone spoke with her.

“I question people’s motives when I’ve never seen them prepare a resolution to not support something,” she stated. “Not only that, I’m available. No one from the council has reached out to me to say let me meet with you to address any concerns that they may have had. That in itself is problematic to me, that you as a sitting council person would file a resolution against the bill that I proposed without even reaching out to me and talking to me.”

“I would question, why would a person do that when a judge has already made a ruling?” she added. “It is clear that Brandon Williams has the ability to be on that board. I want to make sure that this is not about Brandon Williams. This is about people who may find themselves in that same predicament.”

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