4th Circuit upholds closure of Civil Service Commission office

By Tomas Kassahun | Feb 23, 2018

NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana appeals court has denied an appeal by the Plaquemines Parish Department of Civil Service, the Plaquemines Parish Civil Service Commission and Civil Service Director Ellen Barrois in a case over the closure of a government office.

The Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's ruling from Jan. 9, saying the Plaquemines Parish Council and Plaquemines Parish government did not violate the state constitution when it closed a Civil Service Commission office.

The court added that the Plaquemines Parish government did not impair the Civil Service Department’s effective operation when it closed the office.     

The case dates to September 2015 when the Civil Service Commission asked the trial court to issue an order that would stop the Plaquemines Parish government from closing the commission’s office in Belle Chasse.

In October 2016, a trial was held to address the appellants’ petition for temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop the office from closing down.

The court said it denied the restraining order because the appellants couldn’t prove that they suffered from injury, loss or damages. 

When the appellants filed a petition Sept. 14, 2015, they alleged that the council had unconstitutionally overreached its authority by ordering them to relocate the office. The court dismissed the claim, saying the plaintiffs were unable to prove that the relocation of the Department of Civil Service from Belle Chasse is an unlawful infringement. 

When the office in Belle Chasse closed, the Civil Service Department was moved.

An ordinance was enacted so the Civil Service Department would be assigned office space in the Port Sulphur Government Building, room Numbers 211, 214, 215, 217 and the testing room would be located in the Port Sulphur Government Building, located at 8028 Hwy. 23, Port Sulphur. 

The Civil Service Commission argued the move is inconvenient, and it affects their performance at work. 

The trial court said the Port Sulphur offices may not be as conveniently located to Belle Chasse as the appellants wanted, but it shouldn't affect the commission's ability to work effectively. 

"The Appellants have failed in their burden of proof, by clear and convincing evidence, that Council’s Ordinance No. 15-107 impaired the effective and efficient operation of the Department," the court said. 

The court added that the commission has been relocated to many buildings throughout the years, including the Port Sulphur Government Building. Looking at how the Civil Service Commission was able to perform effectively in its previous stint at the Port Sulphur office, the court said the Civil Service Commission will not have problems working from there again.    

“The Appellants never challenged the location of the Civil Service Department location in Port Sulphur from approximately 1997 through 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the majority of Plaquemines Parish,” the court said. “The only challenge comes after this devastation and the necessary relocation to Belle Chasse."

The appellants’ argued that the trial court made a mistake when it decided not to stop the Plaquemines Parish government from closing the civil service office. The court said the Plaquemines Parish Civil Service didn’t have proof to back up its statement.

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