Apr 12, 2012 11:26 PM by Maddie Garrett
An Opelousas police officer and two public works employees remain on the city's payroll, after being arrested and charged with various crimes.
Police Officer Yolanda Lewis is charged with obstruction of justice and malfeasance in office. She's accused trying to cover up her husband, Quinn Lewis' crime of stealing a television. Yolanda Lewis is on leave with pay pending the outcome of her trial and public works employee Quinn Lewis is now back at work with no disciplinary action.
The third employee is small animal warden, commonly known as dog catcher, Donald Tyler. Tyler was arrested and charged with OWI in February, after he was involved in an accident while operating a city vehicle. He too is on paid leave.
The Police Chief Perry Gallow and Public Works Director Kim Fontenot both recommended firing the employees, but a split council voted to go against those recommendations.
"I'm truly frustrated with the whole situation," said Alderman Blair Briggs.
Briggs is upset and outnumbered. Only he and another alderman, Julius Alsandor, voted against keeping the three employees on the payroll.
"We are setting a horrible example for the other city workers, it's unfair to the tax payers of the city," said Briggs.
Briggs said officer Yolanda Lewis should at least be on unpaid leave until a judge rules on her case. And he said the other employees should be fired.
"I feel strongly about the policies and procedures and the substance abuse policies in place and I think they should be adhered to. And I don't think it's anything to be taken likely, especially the DWI situation, I don't feel that there's any good reason that employee should keep his job," explained Briggs.
But Aldermen Reggie Tatum, Louis Butler Jr. and Jacquiline Martin disagreed and voted to keep the arrested employees on the payroll.
Tatum pointed out that in all three cases the employees are only charged with crimes and not convicted.
"We have to always presume innocence until proven guilty, that's one of the big things and we have to take that into account," said Tatum.
Tatum said he believes in second chances. He also worries that firing the employees could cost the city in the long run.
"If the judge says ok they're innocent, we have to go back, pay them and also pay extra fees like attorney fees and stuff like that," said Tatum.
The council will hold a special meeting May 2, 2012, to re-examine Tyler's employment.