Friday, May 25, 2018

Council votes 3-2 to fund Devall’s back pay; settlement possible?

Council votes 3-2 to fund Devall’s back pay; settlement possible?
Posted: Sep 12, 2017
Categories: Front Page, Headlines
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HAMMOND---On Tuesday night, the Hammond City Council set the stage to settle a nearly two-year-old wrongful termination case filed against the city by former Police Chief Roddy Devall.

In a 3-2 split vote, the council approved Mayor Pete Panepinto's request to amend the city budget to transfer $353,000 into the police department fund. Councilmen Jason Hood and Lemar Marshall cast the two dissenting votes.

Director of Administration Lacy Landrum said the money is purposed “to be able to provide funds for a settlement if a settlement can be reached.” Landrum specifically said that amount would “go toward (Devall’s) back pay,” a figure that would likely date back to Devall’s November 2015 termination and continuing through Judge Jeff Johnson’s July 2017 ruling at which time the district court found that the city mishandled Devall’s termination.

After the meeting, Marshall said he couldn’t go along with the administration’s recommendation because the council was only given one possible option to resolve the matter. He said that the council really wasn’t brought into the discussion until this point and Marshall said he thought that with more discussion, “There would have been other ways we could solve this problem other than spending money.”

“We’re only able to do what we’re asked to do,” Marshall said.

Hood, who is completing his third and final term on the council, objected to the administration’s handling of the case from the start.

“I didn’t think it was handled properly from the beginning,” Hood said, alluding to other costs that the city will have incurred above and beyond any back pay issue for Devall.

Hood also rejected an item on Tuesday night’s agenda to allocate a combination of potential grant funds and private contributions to add sculptures or some kind of art work to the three roundabouts on SW Railroad Avenue at I-12 near Hammond Square. When asked about his no vote after the meeting, Hood scoffed at the request saying he could not justify spending those kinds of dollars when the city has infrastructure, drainage, and other “bricks and mortar needs” that were being pushed to the back burner to handle items like the proposed Devall settlement.

City officials indicated Tuesday night that while a settlement is possible, it had not been signed as of the close of the Tuesday Council meeting.

Panepinto terminates Hammond Police Chief Roddy Devall