Denham Springs mayor's testimony begins day 3 of ousted police chief's appeal hearing

Day 3: Denham Springs mayor's testimony of ousted police chief's appeal hearing
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - During the third day of an appeal hearing for the ousted Denham Springs police chief, some of the city's top officials were called to testify about what led up to his firing.

The Denham Springs Civil Service Board is hearing Scott Jones' appeal in which the city bears the burden of proof.

Jones and his second-in-command, former Captain Steve Kistler, were fired in April over the department's handling of a domestic violence case involving City Councilman Chris Davis.

Davis, 40, was arrested and booked on February 11 after he was accused of domestic abuse that happened on January 15. He was booked into the Livingston Parish Jail. He posted a $1,500 bond and was released.

However, Davis was not arrested the night of the incident. Rather, he was issued a citation, which led some to question whether this was a violation of protocol.

That question led to an internal affairs investigation into Jones and Kistler. In the report that followed, the investigation found Jones failed to follow a direct order from the mayor telling him to follow the letter of the law.

Davis and his wife have since said the incident was an accident.

Mayor Gerard Landry was the first up to testify Tuesday evening. The first part of his testimony was conducted in closed session as it dealt with the facts of the case against Davis and there is still pending legal action. When testimony was open to the public again, Landry was drilled on why, and particularly when, the investigation into Jones began.

Landry testified that he got involved in the Davis case at the request of Davis' wife who he said expressed concern over her safety. It was at that time, Landry said he began to collect information on the Davis case and told the chief to "follow the letter of the law."

"Because it was a public official we certainly couldn't show any favoritism," Landry said.

The findings against Jones were also reviewed extensively.

Civil Service Board Attorney Henry Olinde quizzed Landry on the timeline of the investigation. According to the officer bill of rights, any investigation must begin within 14 days after a formal, written complaint.

Landry testified he had received an anonymous letter in January detailing other possible domestic violence incidents involving Davis and alluding to possible misconduct within the police department.

Olinde asked Landry if he considered that letter a formal, written complaint. Landry said at that time, he did not and was only concerned for the safety of Davis' wife.

Landry further testified that he wasn't aware the the citation issued to Davis was not in accordance with the law until the 21st Judicial District Court issued a warrant in February.

Jones was given notice of an investigation into his actions in February.

Gary Watson, the city's human resources manager, and Councilman Jeff Wesley were also called to testify. Both served on the investigation committee.

At one point, Watson was asked if he believed Jones was a good chief. Watson said he believed he was a good man, but did not serve well as the chief of police.

The board called the hearing around 9:30 p.m. It will continue once again on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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