Action taken against DA’s advice
Cotton Valley Fire Protection District 8 has "laid-off" the employment of its embattled assistant fire chief, Adam Hurley. His effective last date of work was reportedly Tuesday, August 21.
District Attorney Schuyler Marvin said he did not find out about the action against Hurley until Thursday, August 23.
"That's what I was told yesterday," he said. "They did not do that with my legal advice or my (assistant district attorney's) legal advice.
"I know that's a small district and I guess they just made a decision that they believed they needed to save some money," Marvin continued. "I don't know – I was not privy ... that's all I can speculate as to why they did that."
CVFPD 8 board chairman Herman Coleman agreed with the reasoning, adding more details of the board's decision.
"The bylaws which we operate under do not have any position for him to hold," Coleman said in a faxed response. "Our tax revenue-based income has declined and continues to decline, as has everyone else's."
Reports indicate that CVFPD 8 also did not consult with the Webster Parish Police Jury of which they are a component unit. According to Marvin, the move was made against the legal advice of Patrick Jackson, assistant DA and WPPJ attorney.
WPPJ President Charles Walker said he was not aware of the action against Hurley until contacted by Minden Press-Herald, but would have advised the board to follow the DA's wishes.
Coleman's statement did not make clear exactly who is currently being consulted.
"The complete history and consideration of the entire situation and all the facts of the situation are being reviewed by the parties involved," he said.
Hurley is currently embroiled in a 26th District Court criminal case against himself and ousted CVFPD 8 fire chief James "Dennis" Meshell. Both were arrested in March on charges of malfeasance in office, felony theft and injuring public records.
Reportedly, the current criminal charges against Hurley and Meshell in district court are one count each of malfeasance in office and unauthorized use of an access card as theft, both are felony charges.
As a volunteer, CVFPD 8 was free to immediately terminate Meshell at their April 17 meeting. However, Hurley's uncertain status as a civil service employee resulted in the board placing him on paid administrative leave.
An Office of State Examiner letter dated March 12 and sent to previous CVFPD board chair Linda Hayes asserted Hurley was a civil service employee. Marvin agreed that he appears to be civil service as well.
"That's what we've concluded," he said. "I'm not an expert on civil service law, I'll be the first one to say that. I'm relying on people that are and they tell me that when they created the (Cotton Valley fire protection) district they should have done something that would have exempted their employees from the civil service regulations."
The Louisiana Constitution (Article X, Section 16) and other state law (R.S. 33:2531 et seq.) provide protections for civil service employees. One of those protections requires that, except in certain specific cases that do not appear to yet apply to Hurley, civil service employees may only be terminated by a civil service board.
The evidence of Hurley's potential status as a civil service employee, however, did not appear to sway Coleman.
"There has not been a determination if the requirements have been met to be civil service," he said.
Marvin said regardless of the outcome of any legal action Hurley may choose to make in response to his lay-off or his civil service status, the DA's criminal prosecution of Hurley and Meshell would be unaffected.
"Whatever becomes of the civil service issues is not going to have a bearing on his criminal case," Marvin said. "I'm determined for that to happen."
Meshell and Hurley have claimed innocence from the beginning of the charges made against them.