In the middle of an investigation into his use of public resources, Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s practice of using Lafayette Police Department officers as his full-time personal security has come to an end.
Sources connected to law enforcement confirm that the Lafayette officers have been informed that the full-time detail has been discontinued; it is unclear whether Guillory or his new police chief, Judith Estorge, made the call.
Late last year, the City Council authorized a two-pronged investigation that includes auditing the “direct or indirect expenditure of public funds or use of personnel, employees, assets or resources of the city of Lafayette by the mayor-president.” The Current first reported in November that the inquiry concerned Guillory’s use of Lafayette Police officers as his personal security detail. Guillory has consistently denied wrongdoing and has characterized the council investigation as “political theater.”
City Councilwoman Nanette Cook says she is happy to see the change but maintains it will not affect the council probe. “We’re concerned about the money that was spent over the past three years that was not necessary,” she says.
The unusual and costly decision (an LCG consultant’s analysis concluded the practice was biting $244,000 out of the PD budget annually) to dedicate members of the Lafayette Police Department’s Dignitary Protection Unit for his full-time security and any potential abuses may draw interest from the Louisiana legislative auditor’s office, which confirmed this week that it is investigating the Guillory administration.
“They can look at whatever they choose to look at. They are going to follow the evidence wherever the evidence leads,” says Dr. Robert Collins, a political analyst at Dillard University in New Orleans.
Collins suggests Guillory didn’t suddenly realize this waste of taxpayer money.
“He’s stopping now clearly because there was political heat from the council as well as from the general public. The practice was exposed,” Collins says. “Taxpayers think it’s an inefficient use of their money when you’re pulling law enforcement officers off of actual law enforcement and putting them on security details when there is no obvious threat of danger to the mayor.”
Frustrated by a lack of answers over Guillory’s use of public safety resources for his own security, Cook and fellow Councilman Glenn Lazard turned the matter over to Faulk & Winkler, the Baton Rouge auditing firm the council hired late last year to investigate the Guillory administration’s drainage projects. That inquiry, said to include a focus on how much overtime has been paid to the officers over the past three years, has been ongoing for several months.
“We’re trying to get an understanding of the extra costs of the dignitary duty with this administration,” Cook said in November. “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 said they also had questions about whether police officers should accompany Guillory to his side hustles, like his part-time teaching gig at UL Lafayette.
“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,” Lazard said at the time. 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.
At an August budget hearing, then-interim Chief Monte Potier explained to 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, were actually assigned to the PD’s criminal investigation division but unavailable to do any of that work because they were always by Guillory’s side. The two plain clothes officers were with Guillory at the investiture ceremony for City Court Judge Jules Edwards on Jan. 4, an event held in a courthouse where security already exists.
It’s unclear when the full-time detail ended. Sources say the officers are returning to regular duty with the department; the members of the dignitary unit will be used on an as-needed basis.
“I made a request last year [to the administration] for some information that I still haven’t received to this date,” Lazard, who has pressed for the officers’ overtime pay records, told Potier in November. “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.”
LCG spokesman Jamie Angelle and LPD Public Information Officer Robin Green did not respond to requests for comment.
Among the unit’s official responsibilities is to attend all city and parish council meetings 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,” Collins told The Current in November.
Guillory’s deployment of officers as full-time security takes officers away from the short-staffed department. The dignitary unit was used sparingly in prior administrations, according to multiple high-ranking former LCG and LPD 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.
In an interview with KLFY-TV10’s Darla Montgomery after he returned to work in August (27-minute mark) after what he said was rehab for alcohol abuse and PTSD treatment, 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.