Facing lawsuit from police chief, Hammond civil service board hires team of attorneys

The Hammond Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board voted Tuesday to retain a team of attorneys to defend itself against a lawsuit by Police Chief Roddy Devall, who has been on paid administrative leave since May 15.

Devall’s suspension had its origins in the April 25 arrest of Hammond police officer Jennifer Payne, who is accused of “doctor shopping.” After the Police Department issued a news release about the arrest with Payne’s picture and her address, she complained to the civil service board that her privacy rights had been violated under civil service law.

Devall’s suspension followed Payne’s complaint.

Devall, through attorney Jill Craft of Baton Rouge, filed suit Friday in the U.S .District Court in New Orleans against Hammond Mayor Mayson Foster, David Danel, chairman of the civil service board, the board and the City of Hammond.

Devall claims in his lawsuit he was “unlawfully placed on administrative leave, removed from his office, denied the emoluments of his office and was issued with an illegal ‘gag’ order prohibiting him from speaking to anyone associated with the City of Hammond.”

Devall requests the court give him injunctive relief from the gag order and his suspension and a speedy hearing of his request for a judgment.

Danel said Tuesday he had not been served a copy of the lawsuit and therefore could not comment on it. He also said Devall remains on paid administrative leave until further notice.

The civil service board voted to retain the services of attorneys with the Shows, Cali and Walsh and the Olinde and Mercer law firms, both located in Baton Rouge.

Civil service board attorney John Feduccia had asked to be recused from the case because of his long association with numerous city employees and officials, Danel said.