LAKE CHARLES, LA – Lake Charles police are civil service employees and not allowed to participate in political activities.But the Third Circuit Court of Appeal agrees that the police union is allowed to endorse candidates – if certain rules are followed, such as voting by members.
Lt. Craig Desormeaux is past president of the local union 830 and he’s the current president of Louisiana Union of Police. He’s pleased.
“It’s important to us and I would think it’s important to all the City of Lake Charles to be able to have somebody in there that we think is going to be best for the police officers – the people at City Hall, the fire department, public works and for the citizens,” he said.
The city argued that since individual police can’t engage in certain political activities, the union can’t do it for them. Not all courts agree, so Mayor Randy Roach said the Louisiana Supreme Court may be willing to take up the issue.
“The court left intact the general prohibition against individually engaging in such activity, but it did allow them to engage in those activities as a group, as an association, organization. That has all kinds of implications,” said Roach.
Roach said the city and the police need clarity on the issue.
“It’s important for the employer. Can you discipline employees who act as an association if they do something that the law says they can’t do individually. Because that was our obligation,” he said.
“I don’t think an organization of civil service employees would want to do anything that would jeopardize any of their members as far as their ability to continue with their employment or to be subjected to some other disciplinary action,” said Roach.
Roach said the court does set forth a process and procedures that must be followed.
Desormeaux said the issue did not surface because of any specific race, still, he said, “At our next union meeting we actually invited all the mayoral candidates to attend and they’ve all accepted. And we will let them tell us. We want to know why they believe they should be the next mayor of the City of Lake Charles.”
Desormeaux said it’s doubtful the ruling will result in an endorsement in the current mayor’s race, in part because of the possibility of appeal.
To read the Third Circuit ruling click here.