EBR Parish attorney: ‘I’ve never done anything wrong’

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- East Baton Rouge Parish attorney Mary Roper, right, listens to comments made about her by Metro Council members Wednesday night. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- East Baton Rouge Parish attorney Mary Roper, right, listens to comments made about her by Metro Council members Wednesday night.

East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney Mary Roper will have to fight to keep her job after a majority on the Metro Council voted Wednesday to initiate a process to remove her from office.

Roper, whose duties include representing the Metro Council in legal issues, said she has been fighting since the day she took office against the political will of some council members. And after the vote, Roper said she will fight to clear her reputation in an upcoming public hearing.

“I have nothing to hide, and the public deserves to know what the issues are,” she said, adding she has resolved “never to be bullied or put in a position where (she would) be intimidated.”

The Metro Council voted to express its intention to remove her from her office and set a hearing for 3 p.m. May 28 during which she can make her case before the council. At that time, the council will make its final vote whether to remove her.

The vote Wednesday on initiating the proceeding was split, 7-5.

Council members Chauna Banks-Daniel, Scott Wilson, Donna Collins-Lewis, Joel Boé and Tara Wicker voted against the measure . Council members Trae Welch, Ronnie Edwards, C. Denise Marcelle, Chandler Loupe, Buddy Amoroso, Ryan Heck and John Delgado voted in favor.

Roper was asked to take leave earlier this month, after it was discovered she sent her husband an email with source codes from an in-house software program called TRACE 360.

Roper said she was dealing with the source codes because she was asked to copyright the program, and the process includes sending source codes to the U.S. Copyright Office. She said she sent them to her husband because she had a question and he has a software background.

Council members have questioned why Roper would send the uncopyrighted source codes to her husband, a software entrepreneur who could use them to his personal advantage.

The email came to light because another city-parish employee, Kyle Jones, was discovered to be attempting to sell the software program as his own.

Roper was present Wednesday for the vote; she did not speak to the council.

Banks-Daniel said it is improper for the council to act as the “prosecutor, the judge and the jury,” noting the allegations against Roper were being made by council members and there’s been no investigation into her conduct in the matter.

Banks-Daniel said she is concerned the lawyers on the council — Delgado, Welch and Loupe — have ideas about who they would rather hold the position.

“I fully support Mary Roper,” she said. “If I were in her place, I would not want someone to remove me without getting all of the information.”

Amoroso, who co-sponsored the measure with Welch and Delgado to remove Roper, said the decision is professional, not personal.

“No one is saying Ms. Roper is unethical or a bad attorney,” Amoroso said. “But in my opinion she has lost the confidence of the council. I find myself going to other sources for opinions, and it’s time for a change.”

Wilson responded that Amoroso does not speak for him.

“I still support Mary,” Wilson said. “I haven’t lost confidence in Mary, Councilman Amoroso. You said the council has lost confidence, but I certainly haven’t.”

Wade Shows, the former parish attorney before Roper took office, spoke to the council in support of Roper.

“The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career is represent 12 different people,” Shows said of his time representing the council. “Everybody has friends who are lawyers, they get side advice or have their own feelings. One thing the parish attorney has to do is bring integrity to the office.”

After the vote, Roper said in an interview that she has had a “target on her back” since her first day in office, referencing attempts by Loupe to remove her in 2009 and 2010.

She also said she has yet to be informed of all the complaints council members have about her, adding she reached out to every council member but some did not respond.

“I’ve never done anything wrong, nor would I,” Roper said. “I think it’s very important that the parish have an attorney that will not bow to political pressure.”