City of Alexandria files two lawsuits against City Council President Catherine Davidson

Mayor Jeff Hall claims Davidson source of “divisive, demoralizing, bullying and wrongful conduct”
Alena Noakes recaps the lawsuits the City of Alexandria has filed against City Council President Catherine Davidson.
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 1:50 PM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Officials with the City of Alexandria have filed two lawsuits against City Council President Catherine Davidson.

In a press release sent out on Wednesday, the city said their goal is to “stop Ms. Davidson from continually and currently violating the City’s Home Rule Charter and to stop her harassment and wrongful conduct against City employees.”

“Unfortunately, we have had to resort to litigation once again to protect the City’s charter from violations from Councilwoman Davidson and to protect our employees from her divisive, demoralizing, bullying and wrongful conduct,” said Alexandria Mayor Jeffrey Hall.

City Files 2 Lawsuits Against City Council President Alexandria, La. (May 18, 2022) – City of Alexandria officials have...

Posted by City of Alexandria, Louisiana - Government on Wednesday, May 18, 2022

City officials asked the 9th Judicial Court to stop Davidson’s investigation of Mayor Hall’s actions, because they claim that neither Davidson nor city council met the Charter requirements to investigate the mayor and his staff.

City attorneys are claiming Davidson is “politicizing and weaponizing the issue of crime in the City for her own political gain.”

“The Alexandria Police Department has provided information as requested, has met with Catherine Davidson, and attempted to answer her questions,” Mayor Hall said. “She has repeatedly rejected the facts and berated employees for no real purpose. APD employees have important work to do rather than being subjected to ludicrous and untrue allegations by Ms. Davidson.”

In response to the recent meeting with APD and the media about providing information about staffing and crime in the city, Chief Ronney Howard said, “The information is available on our APD web site. We are proud of the work we have accomplished at APD, and we want residents to know about that work. The men and women of APD work every hour of every day to protect and serve our citizens.”

The City said this is the second time they have used litigation against the City Council concerning actions that violate City charter. In 2021, the Council passed an unbalanced budget in violation of the charter and state law, and the Council was required to correct its violation.

The announcement about the lawsuits comes less than a week after the City Council voted 4-1 in favor of investigating Mayor Hall’s administration’s handling of public information as it relates to the police department. Shortly after that vote, the administration issued a statement indicating an intent to “cooperate fully.”

News Channel 5 has obtained the lawsuits referenced by Mayor Hall’s administration.

The first document KALB obtained is a “Petition for Investigation into Violations of the Alexandria Home Rule Charter.” Mayor Jeff Hall and Chief Ronney Howard are listed as plaintiffs.

The document details an incident on April 25, 2022 in which Davidson came to the Alexandria Police Department to meet with Chief Howard “about information discussed at the April 19, 2022 council meeting.”

The document reads as follows:

“When Davidson arrived, Chief Howard instructed Lieutenant Robert DiStefano to show or explain how certain stats, provided during the April 19, 2022 meeting, were developed. Shortly after Davidson’s arrival, Chief Howard saw Davidson began to demand and/or direct Lt. DiStefano to provide information beyond what was previously discussed. When Chief Howard advised Davidson her requests went beyond the scope of their meeting, Davidson became upset and hostile. Davidson continued to direct the Chief and Lt. DiStefano to produce various records or information. Unfortunately, a verbal altercation between Chief Howard and Davidson erupted in the presence of other officers and within earshot of several onlookers. At some point during the altercation, Davidson requested to speak with Chief Howard in private. Chief Howard agreed. During the private conversation, Davidson accused Chief Howard of lying and covering up for the Administration. Chief Howard told Davidson she was delusional if she believed he was covering anything up or lying about the stats previously provided to the Council. Chief Howard assured Davidson he was not covering up anything for anyone, including the Administration.”

The City claims in the document that Davidson “threatened to use the media, specifically naming two employees of the local news station, KALB, against Chief Howard.” The names of the employees that the administration claims Davidson “threatened to use” are not provided in the document.

Witness letters from DiStefano and Capt. D. Blackwood are included in the document.

The document continues, “Davidson also ‘warned’ Chief Howard he would be collateral damage if he, and presumably the APD, did not surrender to her demands.” The document states that Davidson “failed to explain what she meant by Howard being ‘collateral damage’.”

The document goes on to claim that the next day, April 26, “Davidson used her influence as the Council president to unilaterally - without any Council votes - initiate an unprecedented and seemingly unfounded investigation involving APD records.”

The information within the document goes on to claim that Davidson’s “actions are not limited to the APD.”

“Apparently on April 19, 2022, Davidson sent an email to the City’s Finance Director, among others. In the referenced email, Davidson directed and/or urged the Finance Division to use ‘creating accounting’ to pay a former employee who was prohibited under the Code of Ethics from contracting with the City. Davidson’s ‘creative accounting’ suggestions appeared to encourage, at the very least, shady accounting techniques, including suggesting the City pay a one-time bonus to a non-employee. The direction and supervision of all divisions, departments, offices, and agencies are the responsibility of the Mayor - not the Council. Any attempt, like Davidson’s invasion of APD or her directive to the Finance Department, by City Council members to supervise or direct the day-to-day operations of the City clearly infringes on the City’s well-settled separation of powers in the Home Rule Charter.”

The administration is asking Davidson to identify APD personnel that she has communicated with, address and phone numbers of those individuals, “admit you have communicated with APD personnel, without first obtaining permission from Chief Howard,” “admit you discussed APD Daily Assignment Sheets with APD personnel, other than Chief Howard and Lieutenant Robert DiStefano,” among other requests.

The full documents concerning the first lawsuit are below.

Mayor Hall’s administration has also filed another lawsuit and a motion to quash.

It lists Council Members Catherine Davidson, Gerber Porter, Reddex Washington, and Cynthia Perry as defendants in a “Petition for Declaratory Judgement and Permanent Injuction” and a “Motion to Quash Subpoena Duces Tecum and Individual Subpoenas with Incorporated Memorandum in Support.”

The administration is claiming that Davidson’s announcement of an investigation, “Mayor Jeff Hall’s Administration’s handling of public information as it refers to the Alexandria Police Department,” according to the administration, “instead appears to be an investigation of Mayor Hall and APD Chief Ronney Howard individually, for the political gain of Council President Catherine Davidson.”

The administration argues that the investigation “will also center on matters that do not fit within the language of Charter Sec. 2-08, including the making of legal determination reserved to the judiciary, and the Council’s challenges to executive decisions of Mayor Hall relating to the APD.”

The administration also believes the “investigation” will “address Catherine Davidson’s accusations of criminal conduct by the Administration of Mayor Hall.”

The administration believes that the council’s investigation “is intended to embarrass, intimidate, oppress and harass Mayor Hall, the members of his Administration, and APD Chief Ronnie (sic) Howard.”

The administration wants a Rapides Parish judge to quash the subpoenas the council requested for appearances by Mayor Hall, Chief of Staff Susan Broussard, Chief Ronney Howard, and Director of Human Resources Monza Williams. One of the subpoenas also addresses “unknown, unidentified persons who supposedly have ‘personal knowledge’ of the Council’s ‘investigation.’”

The administration is asking a judge to declare that the council investigation is “beyond the scope of Charter Sec. 2-08 and is otherwise not allowed as set forth above.”

The full documents concerning this are below.

The City of Alexandria released the following video on Facebook to personally address the reasons behind the lawsuit:

City Lawsuit Against Council President

Mayor Jeff Hall explains reasons for filing lawsuits against Council President.

Posted by City of Alexandria, Louisiana - Government on Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Click here to report a typo. Please provide the title of the article in your email.

Copyright 2022 KALB. All rights reserved.