EBR council moves to put Roper on leave in wake of lawsuit

In response to a lawsuit filed against it by its own parish attorney, the Baton Rouge Metro Council is moving toward putting Mary Roper on administrative leave.

Councilmen John Delgado and Ryan Heck sponsored an item for the council to vote on that would place Roper on indefinite leave with pay. The council will vote on the item at its meeting on Aug. 27.

Roper, who is on vacation until Aug. 27, filed a lawsuit against the Metro Council on Tuesday, claiming it had not provided sufficient grounds to remove her. The suit also challenges the process laid out for her to contest the termination.

The council has hired Baton Rouge attorney Murphy J. Foster III to represent it in the case against Roper, who has served as the chief legal adviser for the city-parish since 2008.

Foster also represented the city-parish when former Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White was contesting his ouster. White ultimately chose to drop his civil service appeal.

Delgado said Roper’s decision to sue the Metro Council creates a conflict of interest that should prevent her from representing that body on any city-parish matters.

“Our own attorney has sued us, and I believe that’s an impermissible conflict of interest,” Delgado said. “Our attorney has an adverse interest to that of the council.”

A hearing is scheduled in 19th Judicial District Judge Michael Caldwell’s courtroom on Aug. 26.

Roper has been at odds with some on the council who have said they’ve lost confidence in her ability to serve and want her removed.

Hearings to remove her were initially scheduled for May but were twice deferred to give her an opportunity to negotiate a new job within city-parish government and retain her pension. She ultimately rejected a job with the City-Parish Retirement System as legal counsel.

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