Parish Attorney already on administrative leave, lawyers agree

A lawyer representing embattled Parish Attorney Mary Roper on Tuesday seemingly accepted that his client is on administrative leave, despite asking a judge last week to hold the Metro Council in contempt for trying to take that action.

The Metro Council was expected to hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to vote on putting Roper on administrative leave, a meeting called after what some council members and staff described as Roper’s erratic behavior on Friday when she abruptly tried to fire her second-in-command, Lea Anne Batson, accusing her of disloyalty.

Roper’s attorney Wade Shows, who previously served as parish attorney, subsequently filed court documents asking District Court Judge Michael Caldwell to find the Metro Council in contempt for violating his earlier injunction preventing the public body from taking a vote to remove her from her post.

But on Tuesday, both Shows and Murphy Foster, representing the Metro Council, emerged from a closed-door status conference in Caldwell’s chambers in agreement that Roper is in fact already on administrative leave, with pay, and that the scheduled Wednesday vote of the council was unnecessary.

“We’ve agreed to put that off,” Foster said, noting that Council Administrator Casey Cashio has the authority to place council appointees on administrative leave.

Cashio sent Roper a letter Monday to inform her that she was being placed on leave until further notice.

“During that time you will not have access to your city-parish email account or to your office, except to obtain personal property,” the letter said.

Roper lost access to her email last week. Cashio said he authorized the block based on Foster’s recommendation. This week, the locks were changed on her office.

“We didn’t think it was a good situation for her to be in the office and have access to the office,” Foster said. “As you know, she came in last Friday and attempted to fire the first assistant and threatened other people, so we just thought this was the rational thing to do.”

Although Roper told Batson she was fired during the confrontation on Friday, it was not official because documents needed to fire an employee were not filed, city-parish officials have said.

Batson serves as acting parish attorney in Roper’s absence.

Roper said in a text message over the weekend that the events on Friday have been mischaracterized.

“Unfortunately, this is not something that I can comment upon further other than to say that I am extremely disappointed by certain inappropriate and insubordinate actions. I understand that everyone is under a lot of stress by the situation, but certain behavior by staff cannot be overlooked,” she said.

Shows on Tuesday declined comment on the actions taken against Roper to limit her access to her office.

Caldwell has yet to set a hearing on whether the decision to place Roper on administrative leave violates his injunction.

Roper filed her suit against the Metro Council earlier this month saying they had not given her sufficient grounds to terminate her, and taking issue with the process laid out for her to contest the termination.

A hearing has been set for Aug. 26, when Caldwell will entertain arguments about whether Roper was denied due process.

The Metro Council, if permitted by the court, is set to have a Sept. 10 vote to officially remove Roper as Parish Attorney.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.

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