LAFAYETTE — A Lafayette councilman has called for an investigation of the local fire and police civil service board after a recording surfaced of an official in that department allegedly making racist comments.
Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux requested the investigation when he heard the recording of the board’s attorney, Candice Hattan, purportedly speaking with the board’s chairman, Jason Boudreaux. In the recording, the two were supposedly discussing a recent lawsuit involving NAACP Lafayette President Marja Broussard and how to collect the fees from her.
"They closed debtors prison down," Hattan said in the recording. "We can't hang the poor lady by, you know, by a rope in front of the courthouse for the birds to pick her eyes out."
Boudreaux told the Louisiana Record that the comments were wrong, because he claims Hattan was acting in her official capacity in a public setting when the comments were made. She has nearly 35 years of professional experience as an attorney.
“I immediately felt the comments were unacceptable,” Boudreaux told the Louisiana Record.
Boudreaux said he hopes the board and Hattan will apologize to both Broussard and the community as a whole. However, Boudreaux was told by those involved that the comments were supposedly meant as a joke and they have not apologized as of yet.
“They said it was a joke and no harm was intended and I don’t accept that,” Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux said he does not believe Hattan is racist, despite her remarks, and does not want to “go the racism route.” His main focus is that the comments were unprofessional and inappropriate, he said. Boudreaux expressed concern about the perception of the remarks to the community. Part of Boudreaux's concern lies with the racist nature of the remarks in combination with the climate of the country.
“People are degrading women and talking negatively about women,” Boudreaux said. “They are degrading minorities and talking negatively about minorities. What was once unacceptable is becoming the norm.”
Boudreaux represents a population that is 35 percent African American and wants to help change the way people talk about minorities, he said.
“If we take corrective action, we still have a chance of having the great country we want it to be and locally, a great city,” Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux also expressed concern about the actions of the board and has asked that the entire board be investigated, not just those involved in this incident.
“They were functioning in such a way that disregarded public opinion,” Boudreaux said.
There has been heated discussion about the hiring qualifications of the board, Boudreaux said. The board allegedly wants to "weigh education over experience when hiring." For example, Interim Police Chief Reginald Thomas was not hired as chief, because, despite having 25 years of experience on the force, he only had a two-year degree. A board member, Ralph Peters, was asked to step down from the board because he teaches criminal justice classes at Northwestern State University, Boudreaux said. Boudreaux told the board he believed their process was flawed.
“There is an upcoming appointment that will hopefully change the climate of the board,” Boudreaux said. “We’re hoping to get a minority on there.”