I-Team: Gonzales Police Department and politics - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

I-Team: Gonzales Police Department and politics

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GONZALES, LA (WAFB) -

Is it abuse of power by a top cop? That's the question some are asking when it comes to whether civil service laws are being fairly enforced within the Gonzales Police Department.

Voters in Gonzales will head to the polls in just over a month, to elect a new police chief.

The current chief, Sherman Jackson, is seeking re-election. But two others are running against him, Glynn Leblanc and Duane Carpenter.

Carpenter is a former sergeant with the Gonzales Police Department, where he spent 12 years.

"I love Gonzales. Gonzales has a lot of good people here. We have a lot of good police officers here, and we're just not headed in the right direction," said Carpenter.

The reason for that? Carpenter points the finger at Chief Jackson.

"Treatment isn't fair for everybody. Like I might do one thing and I had to resign because I didn't want to risk getting fired even if it wasn't a violation," said Carpenter.

Carpenter is referring to Jackson's enforcement of civil service laws within the department. They're a set of laws every officer swears to uphold when taking the oath.

Floyd Falcon is a local attorney who has been involved with civil service cases for nearly 40 years. He is not involved in this case.

"When the civil service system was adopted, it was adopted to protect employees from favoritism," said Falcon.

But Carpenter claims there is favoritism at the Gonzales Police Department despite the civil service laws.

Earlier this year, while still on the force, Carpenter placed an order for yard signs for his eventual run for Police Chief. Problem is, the shipping company did not send the order to his home.

"They put a shipping label on the box that said 'Chief of Police, Gonzales Police Department, 120 South Irma Blvd, Gonzales.' It came to the police chief here on Monday, June 10. He opened up the box," said Carpenter.

He being the current chief of police Sherman Jackson. As a result, Jackson found signs for one of his own officers who was planning to run against him. The civil service law states "No employee in the classified service shall be a candidate for nomination or election to public office."

"If you're dealing with elected positions, it would be my understanding they would have to resign their position in order to engage in the political process and run for office," said Falcon.

Two days later, Carpenter turned in this resignation letter to Chief Jackson. But Carpenter claims the chief told him he could not resign because he was launching an investigation into possible violations by Carpenter.

Carpenter's lawyer disagreed saying he "couldn't be denied from resigning from the Gonzales PD." The Gonzales Police Department ultimately accepted Carpenter's resignation and the matter was over.

However, when a different civil service law was allegedly violated by another officer, Carpenter and others tell the I-team, they believe it was swept under the rug.

"Supposedly the chief handled that himself and that was a violation of civil service political activities," said Carpenter.

A newspaper article highlighting the popularity of Gonzales city leaders Mayor Barney Arceneaux and Chief Sherman Jackson was posted to Facebook.

Carpenter said a Gonzales Police detective then commented on the story on Facebook saying "Fa sho...Jackson 2012!!!" and "Arceneaux 2012!" With that, the detective showed his support for two political candidates.

"That would be a potential violation. It would mandate disciplinary action," said Falcon.

"And that disciplinary action is what?" asked Chawla.

"Generally termination," said Falcon.

"There are no other options?" asked Chawla.

"There don't seem to be," said Falcon.

Falcon said the law states no civil service employee can "make any speech or public political statement on behalf of a candidate."

He said that includes social media sites such as Facebook. Sources claim because that detective and Chief Jackson are friends, no investigation was conducted and the detective is still on the force. Carpenter said that shows Chief Jackson does not administer the civil service laws equally.

"I didn't understand why mine, why I was being investigated for one thing and the chief was handling this other situation," said Carpenter.

The I-Team reached out to Chief Jackson three times for an interview. He declined. Then late Thursday evening, he sent a statement: "I would like to go on record stating that on the advice of the city attorney, I am prohibited under state law from commenting on personnel matters."

The I-Team also called the detective who allegedly posted the political comments to Facebook requesting an interview. He said that Chief Jackson told him he could not talk to the media. It appears that his Facebook page has since been taken down.

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