Police Jury, juror face lawsuit

Two high-ranking Pointe Coupee Parish government employees have filed a lawsuit against the Police Jury and Juror Albert Dukes seeking unspecified damages for verbal and physical abuse they claim Dukes inflicted upon them.

Parish Administrator Jim Bello and Parks and Recreation Director Salvadore Genusa accuse Dukes of damaging their professional reputations and causing them mental anguish, humiliation and embarrassment after publicly calling them “incompetent” at their jobs, according to their lawsuit.

New Roads attorney Cy D’Aquila and Baton Rouge attorney Seth Dornier filed the lawsuit Jan. 9 in 18th Judicial District Court, asserting Dukes divulged “proprietary information” to the public regarding Police Jury executive session matters.

The lawsuit criticizes the Police Jury for not properly correcting Dukes’ behavior following a physical altercation between Genusa and Dukes in January 2012 .

Bello said Wednesday he could not comment on the lawsuit. Genusa did not return calls seeking comment on the lawsuit Wednesday. Dukes said Wednesday he would not comment on the lawsuit’s allegations.

Jury Vice President Russell Young said Wednesday the lawsuit didn’t surprise him and he’s “really disgusted” by it.

“We’ve weathered storms before and we will weather this one,” Young said.

The lawsuit alleges Dukes abused his power as a police juror by attempting to manage the day-to-day operations of the parish’s Parks and Recreation Department and “embarked on a campaign of harassment” against Genusa after the departmental head pressed charges against a black woman who allegedly assaulted him.

The woman was accused of assaulting Genusa, who is white, on Jan. 10, 2012, while he was trying to break up a fight during a softball game, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that Dukes, who is black, threatened to have Genusa fired if he didn’t drop the assault charges placed against the woman.

The lawsuit claims that Dukes accused Genusa of racial “disparity” later that day at a Police Jury meeting because Dukes said Genusa had hired more white umpires than black ones to officiate at ball games.

The lawsuit says that after the meeting, when Genusa tried to present Dukes with a list of umpires showing that black umpires outnumbered whites, 3-to-1, Dukes became enraged and had to be subdued after shoving Genusa in the chest and making verbal threats.

The lawsuit asserts Dukes telephoned Bello two days later and demanded that Genusa be suspended from his job. Bello investigated the Jan. 10 incident but took no action because he did not find a “justifiable reason or supportive evidence” to suspend Genusa, the lawsuit says.

Dukes is also cited in the lawsuit for “wrongfully accusing” Bello of misappropriating public funds and demanding the parish administrator be suspended from his job without pay.

Dukes had asked the Police Jury to suspend Bello in June when the parish was under investigation for its handling of the sale of scrap metal materials. Parish workers had used proceeds from the sales to pay for annual holiday parties, according to previous reports.

Dukes said earlier he had received information alleging Bello had been involved in the handling of scrap metal revenue in 2011.

A grand jury determined in September the parish’s longtime scrap-selling practice broke no laws.

The lawsuit says that Dukes tried to interfere in Bello’s day-to-day job responsibilities as well as challenge Bello’s authority to grant half-day holidays to parish employees following the annual employee Christmas party and to allow the Police Jury secretary to transcribe meeting minutes from her home.

Dukes also went behind Bello’s back and solicited bids for building repairs and hired contractors for parish work, the lawsuit states.

Bello and Genusa both accuse Police Jury members of not exercising “reasonable care to prevent or promptly correct the behavior of Juror Dukes and they failed to take advantage of preventative or corrective opportunities that were available.”

However, the lawsuit does acknowledge that on Jan. 24, the Police Jury did send Dukes a written statement asking him to stop interfering in the day-to-day functions of parish employees.

The jury president removed Dukes in June from jury committees on which he had served.