The Lafayette City Council’s investigation into the Guillory administration will probe another issue close to the mayor-president himself, his use of full-time police officers for his personal security.
Frustrated by a lack of answers over using the Lafayette Police Department’s Dignitary Protection Unit for M-P Josh Guillory’s full-time security, Lafayette City Council Chair Nanette Cook and Vice Chair Glenn Lazard turned the matter over to Faulk & Winkler, the Baton Rouge auditing firm hired to investigate the Guillory administration’s drainage projects.
“We’re trying to get an understanding of the extra costs of the dignitary duty with this administration,” Cook says. “Why are we using it full-time, what is the rationale? Also, we’d like to know the hours it’s being used. Are we talking 24-7?”
Both Cook and Lazard also have questions about whether police officers should accompany Guillory to his side hustles, like his part-time teaching gig at UL Lafayette.
While Faulk & Winkler’s primary area of interest is the administration’s tens of millions in drainage expenditures — which the FBI is also said to be investigating — the firm states in its engagement letter with the council that it will review the city’s policy on dignitary security detail and compensation paid to officers from the day Guillory was sworn in until the date of its report. The firm notes that the review may include direct communication with officers.
At an August budget hearing, then-interim Chief Monte Potier told the City Council that two Dignitary Unit officers (at one time it was three) were providing full-time security to the mayor-president with others rotating as part of a “volunteer” unit. The officers, a sergeant and a corporal, are actually assigned to the PD’s criminal investigation division but unavailable to do any of that work.
“They are housed here at City Hall; they not only do dignitary protection, but they also are in charge of security at the building [LCG has contract security working the door at City Hall],” Potier said during the hearing. “Their day-to-day operations are given by the administration.”
“I made a request last year [to the administration] for some information that I still haven’t received to this date,” said Lazard, who has pressed for the officers’ overtime pay records. “The bottom line is the individuals we are referring to … they are normally only here when the mayor is here. So to say that they are part of the City-Parish Hall’s security is an overreach.”
“I’m curious, how would you know when any employee is at their office at any time?” CAO Cydra Wingerter challenged Lazard.
“I know what I see,” Lazard shot back.
In that same meeting, Potier told Cook that the department was short of its staffing allocation by 9 percent. “We have 304 allocated, we’re at 278. So we’re 26 vacancies right now,” Potier said, noting that seven officers were in training.
Guillory’s deployment of Lafayette Police officers as full-time security takes officers away from the short-staffed department and contrasts sharply with his predecessors. The unit was used sparingly in prior administrations, according to multiple high-ranking former LCG and police department officials. In the past, the detail played a limited role, mostly coordinating with the security teams of visiting dignitaries like top state and federal officials, says retired Maj. George Alfred.
Potier’s explanation to council members appeared to capture how the unit has traditionally been used. “When we had the vice president come in, the entire team went out to assist. They work with the Secret Service,” he said. “The other team members that aren’t full-time are called up for those special events.”
Among the unit’s official responsibilities is to attend all city and parish council meetings in order to provide security for council members, the mayor-president and other dignitaries, but it has never been used for full-time security. LPD General Orders going back to the early 1990s (the last revision was in 2011 under Chief Jim Craft) are clear that the Dignitary Protection Unit was not established for that purpose: “It shall be the policy of the Lafayette Police Department to provide protection for visiting dignitaries while in the City of Lafayette.”
“The key word there is visiting. There’s nothing in this policy that gives the mayor the right or the authority to order protection,” says Dr. Robert Collins, a political analyst at Dillard University in New Orleans, who reviewed the policy for The Current. “Now, whether or not there’s some gray area that he can request it and get it, that’s a different discussion. I don’t think anybody in the mayor’s office can say the policy grants the mayor these police officers. It appears that he just decided, at his discretion, that he was gonna have [a security team], or the chief of police allowed him to have one. I think that’s really the issue that the taxpayers are gonna be concerned about.”
After discovering that the officers are being used to transport him back and forth to his part-time job at UL, I am concerned about the possible misuse of the dignitary unit.”City Councilman Glenn Lazard
Collins, who’s been closely following a controversy with the New Orleans mayor’s security detail, a very different situation where police officers and sheriff’s deputies are by policy tasked with providing security to the mayor and council members in a city three times the size of Lafayette, sees no reason why Lafayette’s top official has full-time police security.
“Why does the mayor of a medium-sized city who’s never received, as far as we know, any direct threats against his safety need a full-time police detail?” he asks.
And if Guillory wants security, his office should pay for it, Collins suggests. “He can hire security guards. You don’t need to pull a commissioned police officer away from law enforcement duties to be guarding the mayor.”
A financial assessment of the department’s operations last year by LCG consultant KPMG concluded much the same, at least initially. A preliminary August draft obtained by The Current noted that transferring budget responsibilities for Guillory’s protection could save the police department at least $244,000 annually.
At the time, three officers were listed as providing full-time security, and the draft shows KPMG questioning if the officers were being used for any LPD responsibilities and whether others were also pulled away for dignitary duties.
“I know for a fact [the suggestion to outsource] came from interviews with almost a dozen officers,” former Police Chief Thomas Glover says. By the time the October draft was circulated, however, the cost-savings for the dignitary unit no longer appeared in the report. It’s unclear whether it was included in the final analysis.
Glover was fired by the Guillory administration; he is appealing his termination, and a hearing is set for Monday, Nov. 28, before 15th Judicial District Judge David Smith. (Update: Glover’s hearing was postponed due the judge’s illness.)
LCG spokesman Jamie Angelle did not respond to a request for comment before press time.
Both council members surmise that Guillory will have trouble justifying having police officers with him for non-LCG business, like teaching at UL. “After discovering that the officers are being used to transport him back and forth to his part-time job at UL, I am concerned about the possible misuse of the dignitary unit,” says Lazard. University officials Told The Current in late September that it is common for security to wait outside the class for Guillory while he is teaching.
Notes Collins: “If he feels threatened on campus, and I can’t imagine why he would, then it’s his job to communicate that threat to the UL police department and to have [that department] assign one of their campus police officers to guard him while he’s on campus. They have primary jurisdiction on their own campus.”
While Guillory’s use of PD security was not triggered by the wave of protests inspired by LPD’s Aug. 21, 2020, killing of Trayford Pellerin, it does appear to have heightened the mayor’s level of protection. In fact, the Guillory administration was sending mixed messages about why he had so much protection even before that tragic shooting. In July, an LPD spokesman sought to clarify his own statements that justified the measure, insisting there had been no threats against Guillory and no additional security accompanying him. Sgt. Wayne Griffin, who would later serve briefly as interim chief when Glover was fired, instead told local media Guillory was using routine security.
After the shooting and a subsequent barbecue protest staged in front of Guillory’s house, police protection around the mayor-president’s home was elevated.
Records confirm overtime payments to Lafayette PD of more than $22,000 at the mayor-president’s home from Aug. 22 to Oct. 15 of 2020 and almost $4,000 in payments to the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s office for security from Sept. 17 to Sept. 27 of 2020. When Guillory was out for what he said was rehab in July of this year, The Current observed that an LPD vehicle and what appears to be an unmarked LPD vehicle were both parked at his home (at the time they were photographed, the units were unmanned).
In an interview with KLFY-TV10’s Darla Montgomery after he returned to work in August (27-minute mark), Guillory defended the use of officers for his security, implying that risk assessments by the Lafayette Police Department, Lafayette City Marshal and the Sheriff’s Department are what warrant his security. There is no evidence any such assessments were ever conducted.
In all likelihood, Faulk & Winkler’s audit/investigation will also look into whether the dignitary unit was used for any of Guillory’s personal business, and it’s a given that officers and Potier himself will be interviewed. Lafayette Police officers are legally obligated to refuse to follow an unlawful order and to report it to internal affairs.
“There’s going to be an audit, and some external agency is going to have to decide whether or not there are any laws being broken,” Collins says. “Otherwise, the City Council’s gonna have to look into it from a budget situation. What’s happening in New Orleans right now, and granted it’s a different case, is that we have a bunch of agencies looking at our mayor.”