BATON ROUGE, La: On Wednesday, December 14, 2022, in an 8-4 vote, the Baton Rouge Metro Council denied Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul’s legal budget request to renew legal fees associated with disciplining officers.
Metro Council Members sent a clear message to Chief Murphy Paul and his attorneys, “Enough is enough.”
Chief Paul asked to renew his annual budget of $156,000 in legal fees payable to the Baton Rouge law firm, Breazale, Sasche, and Wilson to defend his quest to discipline officers.
The Metro Council voted to reduce that amount to $78,000, which is half of the requested amount. Additionally, the Metro Council is requiring Chief Paul to report to them as soon as the amount billed for equals 2/3 of the contract amount—approximately $51,000.
Council member Brandon Noel made the motion that ultimately succeeded.
“My motion is going to be to reduce it to $78,000 and to have the Parish Attorney’s office contacted when the billing hits 2/3 of the $78,000 so that they can begin getting caught up on the cases and be prepared to take over once it hits the total of the $78,000,” said Noel.
Deputy Chief Myron Daniels made a plea, arguing the plan that he and Chief Paul had been following is an attempt to “culture change” within the ranks. Deputy Chief Daniels said that this plan works and costs have decreased. Council members flatly rejected his argument.
Council member Jennifer Racca, clearly frustrated, made the point that the Chief Paul’s attorneys billed nearly $100,000 for their work in his case against former Officer Siya Creel. Council member Racca stated, “only for that attorney to come in and ask us to settle the case for $90,000.” She continued, “So that’s why we’re looking at this contract.”
Earlier this year, this same Metro Council rejected Chief Paul’s legal budget request to increase the amount from $156,000 to $230,000. The Metro Council rejected this increase because Chief Paul did not notify anyone that he had exceeded his budget. That issue was never settled, and the Metro Council has not re-visited the issue until Wednesday night.
UWK recently requested billing records related to the law firm’s representation of Chief Paul. On initial findings related to those records, several entries have raised red flags. However, issues with redactions that the City/Parish claims are not subject to public release, remain ongoing and so does UWK’s review of the records.