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Council votes to proceed with investigation into parish president's actions

Parish President Jessie Bellard and city council members will go to court over the council's plan to investigate the firings of 21 parish employees.
Posted at 12:37 PM, Apr 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-07 15:58:41-04

OPELOUSAS, La. — In a 7-4 vote, the St. Landry Parish Council agreed to pursue an investigation regarding Parish President Jessie Bellard and his termination of 21 employees in the past year.

The investigation won't proceed, however, until a judge makes a decision about a request for an injunction that Bellard, who was not in attendance at the meeting, filed. In that court filing, Bellard says that Louisiana is an at-will state, meaning any employee can be fired, even without a specific reason.

The council already has selected a law firm to look into the 21 terminations under the parish president. KATC spoke with Council Chairman Jerry Red, who said in his 15 years on the council, he has never seen this many firings.

"An investigation has to be done because we had 21 employees fired in one year in one period of time. That's a lot of people to be firing," said Chairman Red.

Councilman Jimmie Edwards told KATC that one of the main reasons he voted no to the investigation, was because he was unfamiliar with the law firm.

"I didn't know who was the lawyer, I'm not gonna hire someone I don't know," said Edwards.

The intention behind iring a law firm that's not based in Opelousas, was so that this investigation can remain as biased as possible according to other council members, they said.

Councilmen Edwards says he's just wanting a resolution and hopes after the investigation of Bellard is complete, they can work together again.

"We need to come together as a group of people and as a group of elected officials especially," said Edwards. "We can come together and work together."

Chairman Red says if Bellard has done nothing wrong, and has justly terminated the 21 city employees, he should not be opposed to an investigation.

"If you're doing what you're called to do, you're going to do what's right," said Red. "If it means doing an investigation, do the investigation and after everything is finished, you're finished with it."

Council members say they're now waiting for a court date.