Civil service board member’s testimony conflicted | Local/State Headlines

A local judge is expected to determine whether a local civil service board member should have recused from a vote reinstating a Monroe police officer who failed a drug test and lost his job.

Monroe Police Cpl. Jared DeSadier’s employment was terminated in May 2017 after a drug test showed some Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana — in his system. DeSadier claimed he tested positive because he had taken Cannabidiol (CBD) oil and common herbal supplements that contained trace amounts of THC.

At an August 2017 appeal hearing before the Monroe Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, DeSadier’s employment was reinstated on a 3-2 vote.

Since then, the city of Monroe has questioned whether Civil Service Board member Billy Woods should have recused from the reinstatement vote, in light of his relationship to DeSadier and the officer’s attorney.

The Civil Service Board held an evidentiary hearing last week to hear Woods’ testimony about the matter. Some conflicts between parts of Woods’ testimony surfaced during the hearing, specifically Woods’ answers to questions about whether he had considered recusing from the case before voting to reinstate DeSadier.

In his May 17 ruling, Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Robert Johnson remanded the subject of recusing Woods to the Civil Service Board for an evidentiary hearing, because Woods had two “serious conflicts of interest” that called into question his vote to reinstate DeSadier.

The first conflict of interest identified by the court was Woods’ relationship with DeSadier, who was his next-door neighbor for several years. Woods did not reveal that relationship to City Attorney Angie Baldwin until moments before voting to reinstate DeSadier.

The second conflict of interest concerned DeSadier’s attorney, Michael “Mickey” DuBos, with the Monroe law firm Breithaupt, DuBos, and Wolleson.

Though his law firm previously represented Woods, DuBos did not disclose the connection to the Civil Service Board or to the city prior to the appeal hearing in August 2017. Following the court’s ruling in May, DuBos wrote a letter to the court informing all parties of other previously undisclosed information: DuBos had signed a legal document in Woods’ case in December 2016.

In his ruling, Johnson said the two conflicts of interest reeked of impropriety.

“It’s the judge’s decision whether Mr. Woods should recuse, based on the evidence heard today,” said Elmer Noah, counsel for the Civil Service Board, after last week’s Civil Service Board meeting.

A court reporter recorded the Civil Service Board’s hearing last week. After Woods was sworn in, he was asked numerous questions by City Attorney Angie Baldwin, who is representing the Monroe Police Department in the case.

Woods said he was next-door neighbors with DeSadier for several years, though they were no longer neighbors.

Woods also was asked about remarks he made at the August 2017 appeal hearing, prior to voting on DeSadier’s reinstatement. A transcript of the Civil Service Board’s Aug. 15, 2017 meeting revealed Woods described DeSadier’s appeal for reinstatement as a “very complicated case.”

“I think there’s arguments on both sides here, good arguments, that there’s — to me, to be quite frank with you, the punishment just doesn’t fit the crime,” Woods continued, according to the Aug. 15, 2017 meeting transcript.

“We’re not talking about a guy that does drugs. We’re not talking about a guy that smokes marijuana.

“And I say this with all impartiality — with all impartiality because I’ve lived by this guy for seven years, and I know him. And, to me, there’s not another guy that I think that could be — want to be a policeman as bad as Jared. I think that comes into play here. I think this is just a little bigger picture than we’re talking about. I see the difficulty here. I see the infraction. So, I’ll move on a motion that we reinstate Jared back to classified service with conditions.”

When asked about those remarks during last week’s hearing, Woods said he believed he knew DeSadier well enough to say that DeSadier did not use drugs.

“I believe that he would not do that,” Woods said.

When asked whether he had discussed the matter with DeSadier before the hearing, Woods said, “Barely.”

“It really wasn’t a discussion,” Woods said.

Woods explained that his conversation with DeSadier about the matter took place prior to the August 2017 hearing, while Woods was riding with his friend, Jimmie Bryant, former chief of the Monroe Fire Department.

While they were inside a vehicle, DeSadier approached them and tried to give the pair “some kind of explanation,” Woods said. After that, Woods said he instructed the Civil Service Board’s secretary to send him DeSadier’s file as soon as it arrived for the board’s consideration.

In the months leading up to the August 2017 hearing, Woods said he did not fully understand how recusals worked, because he was a new member on the board. Woods also said he spoke about recusing himself with Noah and Civil Service Board Chairman Hardeman Cordell, though he said he assured them he could make a fair and impartial decision.

Woods also said he had discussed the matter of recusing himself with Bryant on a “couple” of occasions.

“Jimmie Bryant thought I should recuse myself,” Woods said. “I have no ties with Mickey DuBos, relative to me making decisions. I felt I could be fair and impartial. I’ve got no loyalty toward Jared.”

When asked about when those other conversations with Bryant took place, Woods said one of those conversations took place before the appeal hearing in August 2017.

Woods’ statements about discussing whether to recuse from DeSadier’s reinstatement appeal with other people appeared to be at odds with Woods’ earlier remarks that he had “never” considered recusing before taking a vote on DeSadier’s reinstatement.

“Prior to officer DeSadier’s appeal hearing in August, did you ever consider recusing yourself or abstaining from the vote?” said Baldwin, near the beginning of last week’s hearing.

“Did you have conversations with anyone regarding the possibility that you might recuse yourself?” Baldwin said.

Woods said he did not. Woods also claimed he did not understand remarks Baldwin had made in open court about him considering recusing from the case.

When Baldwin pointed out that Woods’ relationship with DeSadier was not disclosed to her until minutes before the final vote to reinstate DeSadier in August 2017, Woods said, “I can’t help that you weren’t present at those (other) meetings.”

“I’m not doing it behind anybody’s back here,” Woods said.

When asked questions about whether a hypothetical audience member would believe it fair for a Civil Service board member to preside over his neighbor’s appeal, Woods said, “You know, it just comes down to me.”

Woods said he was sure some people might think he should have recused.

Woods claimed the city portrayed him as “dishonest and a cheat.”

“You have been very forthcoming today, haven’t you?” DuBos said.

“I have,” Woods said.

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