Roper hearing delayed again after lawsuit

A scheduled vote to remove Parish Attorney Mary Roper from her position as the Baton Rouge government’s top attorney was delayed again on Wednesday, after a district court judge signed off on an injunction to stop the proceedings.

Roper’s attorney Wade Shows asked for the injunction in a lawsuit filed Tuesday evening, claiming that the Metro Council had not provided sufficient cause for trying to terminate Roper. The suit also takes issue with the hearing process laid out by the council to allow her to contest her termination.

19th Judicial District Court Judge Michael Caldwell granted the injunction, and will hear arguments about whether her due process rights were violated at a hearing scheduled for Aug. 26.

The Metro Council, in the meantime, moved the vote to remove Roper to Sept. 10.

As parish attorney, Roper is both the appointee of and legal counsel for the Metro Council. To fight the suit against its own attorney, the Metro Council approved a $175 per hour contract with attorney Murphy Foster.

Foster was chosen because he already has contracts in place with the city-parish to step in when the Parish Attorney’s Office has conflicts of interest.

Roper started a vacation on Wednesday and is expected to return August 27th.

For months, Roper has been at odds with a faction of the council who’ve stated 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.

Roper was expected to resign from her post and start a new job as counsel for the City-Parish Retirement System on Monday, but negotiations broke down with retirement system officials.

The hearing for her removal was planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday, but she unexpectedly filed suit less than 24 hours before the scheduled vote.

The suit asks the court to find that Roper cannot be fired without cause and to force the council to afford her appropriate due process in her personnel hearing.

Shows said the council agreed to a variety of procedural requests for the personnel hearing — including the ability to call witnesses, have an impartial mediator and cross examine witnesses — which they have since reneged on.

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

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