Lafayette Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux isn’t backing off his demand that the attorney, chairman and vice chairman of the Municipal Fire & Police Civil Service Board step down in the wake of comments the former made to board members at an Oct. 11 meeting.
Flanked by nearly a dozen supporters including representatives of the local NAACP, 100 Black Men, the Magnolia State Peace Officers Association and other civic, religious and civil rights groups, Boudreaux reiterated his call from last Tuesday’s council meeting that board Chairman Jason Boudreaux (no relation), Vice Chairman Guy Lebreton and board attorney Candice Hattan step down.
Last Tuesday, Councilman Boudreaux played a recording of an exchange involving the three at the tail end of the Oct. 11 meeting in which Hattan, referring to local NAACP chief Marja Broussard, said, “We cannot hang the poor lady by, you know, by a rope in front of the courthouse for the birds to pick her eyes out.” (The all-white board and attorney were discussing recouping attorney fees from Broussard, who had filed an unsuccessful civil suit against the board.)
Jason Boudreaux has told local media the comment was a joke; Hattan told same she was diffusing a tense moment. Kenneth Boudreaux isn’t buying it: “Jokes are designated and designed to be funny and to create laughter, and I’m telling Chairman Boudreaux that it was not funny and no one is laughing,” the councilman said at Monday’s press conference. “If Jason feels that removing tension and breaking ice can be achieved by referring to the act of hanging someone, this situation is worse than I ever thought.”
Councilman Boudreaux also issued a pair of documents he believes undercut claims made by Jason Boudreaux and Hattan: the City Hall visitors’ log for Oct. 11 showing that Marja Broussard had not signed in and therefore couldn’t have been present at the meeting — Hattan, according to the councilman, told local media Broussard was present when she made the “hang her” comment — and the agenda for that day’s meeting showing that discussion of recouping attorney fees was not among the agenda items.
“The level of comfort, the lack of concern and the absolute no remorse for their actions is truly appalling. But this is what Jason must realize: The words that was said on that day and the tone and the discussion is right in line with the historical actions of the police and fire civil service board going back many years,” Boudreaux said, arguing the civil service board has “no oversight” and members believe “they can do what they want, when they want, and nothing will be done.”
Councilman Boudreaux acknowledged at Monday’s press conference that there is no procedure at the council’s disposal to sack Hattan, Jason Boudreaux and Lebreton. The board members were appointed by a vote of their respective departments — Jason Boudreaux by the fire department and Lebreton by Lafayette Police (Hattan serves at the will of the board, an independent entity) — but he urged the community and media to keep pressure on the board members to step down.
“What happens next is a continued push by the people of Lafayette to insist that they get off,” the councilman said. “Not getting off I don’t see as an option.”
Jason Boudreaux has steadfastly refused to resign from the board, and on Friday he issued a press release calling for detente between the council and the civil service board and characterizing Councilman Boudreaux’s resignation call as political meddling.
“It’s time to stop the mudslinging,” the board chairman says in the release. “The Board and the Council must respect one another’s decisions. We need to move past this for the sake of our community.”
It was clear Monday that the councilman, who was also joined by fellow black Councilman Pat Lewis at the podium, is far from ready to move past this. Boudreaux has not explicitly referred to Hattan’s remarks as racist, although the implicit take-away for many is that indeed they were. But the councilman, who represents one of Lafayette’s two majority-black council districts, did reference how black people perceive whites “joking” about hanging blacks: “When the history of such is studied, and the realization of who executes this act of hanging — who historically were the victims of hanging, and the purpose of the hanging and the effect it has on generations of people, I don’t consider it a joke and I don’t consider it funny.”