Roper tries to fire assistant; EBR council calls special meeting

Parish Attorney Mary Roper got into a heated argument with her second-in-command, Lea Anne Batson, on Friday and told her she was fired — an outburst that prompted the Metro Council to call a special meeting to consider placing Roper on administrative leave sooner than planned.

Batson, a longtime assistant parish attorney, confirmed in an email late Friday afternoon that Roper, who is fighting for her own job, tried to fire her.

“But I will be at work Monday,” Batson said.

City-parish officials noted that the documents needed to terminate an employee were never filed, so Roper’s action is not official and Batson remains in her position.

Roper is under the gun from the Metro Council, which is trying to remove her from her post as the city-parish’s top legal adviser.

She filed a lawsuit against the council this week, claiming the council has not given sufficient grounds for her removal and challenging the process laid out for her to contest the termination. A judge granted an injunction to delay a scheduled vote by the council to remove her.

On Wednesday, Roper began a two-week vacation. But city-parish officials and staff say Roper called her office and angrily accused at least two of her employees of disloyalty for assisting the Metro Council.

Roper then showed up at the City Hall office, yelling and telling Batson she was fired, sources in the office said.

The council was expected to consider a measure to place Roper on administrative leave at its Aug. 27 meeting, but in light of Friday’s outburst, the council scheduled an emergency meeting for 2 p.m. Wednesday to consider the action.

Councilman John Delgado, who has been vocal in his intentions to remove Roper, said her actions require immediate remedy.

Delgado said Roper’s behavior was inappropriate and that Batson would still have a job. Roper also took aim at Dawn Guillot, another longtime assistant parish attorney, Delgado said.

“My understanding is (Roper) was clear they were not to assist anyone on the council in any action against her,” Delgado said. “She reminded them that she was still the parish attorney and they worked for her.”

Roper said in a text message that she has filed a rule for contempt against the council for violating the judge’s injunction preventing them from voting to remove her.

She did not respond to phone calls or respond to any subsequent questions via text.

Roper’s attorney, Wade Shows, could not be reached Friday evening.

Roper, who is paid $120,994 annually, has worked for the Parish Attorney’s Office for more than 20 years.

Appointed to the top position in 2008, she found herself crosswise with Loupe when he took office not long after her appointment. He has led an effort, supported by several other council members, to remove Roper.

Some council members have complained they’ve lost confidence in Roper’s ability to manage her office.

Roper has accused attorneys sitting on the council of playing politics and trying to remove her so they can appoint a friend to the position.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow City Hall Buzz blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz.