Assistant parish attorney asked to stay beyond resignation date despite 2016 sexual harassment complaint

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Tedrick Knightshead continued to serve as a key member of the East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney’s Office, under the then direction of Lea Anne Batson, despite two disciplinary actions, including a 2016 sexual harassment complaint.

Not only did Batson keep him on as first assistant parish attorney, but now interim Parish Attorney Andy Dotson is keeping Knightshead on the payroll despite a December resignation that was supposed to take effect Thursday. Rather than yesterday being Knightshead’s last day on the job, the parish attorney’s office filed paperwork late Thursday indicating Knightshead was being “demoted” to a “Sr. Spec” Assistant Parish Attorney, according to city-parish personnel records. It is unclear why or how long Knightshead will remain in his new role.

Batson resigned under pressure as parish attorney Jan. 22, with the Metro Council appointing Dotson as her temporary replacement the next day (Jan. 23).

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Interim Parish Attorney Andy Dotson

Dotson declined comment when asked Wednesday if he was aware Knightshead had been suspended for a month, with a pay reduction, in 2012 for unclear disciplinary reasons as well as the 2016 sexual harassment complaint, which ultimately led to him being written up by Batson for “inappropriate communications.” Dotson also did not return calls for comment on Thursday or this morning.

The 2016 harassment complaint alleges Knightshead joked with a female subordinate in the office that she “didn’t wear dresses enough” and should start. When she responded that she only had so many work-appropriate dresses, Knightshead allegedly suggested she “send pictures of my non-work appropriate ones.” A comment she initially took as a joke, according to the complaint.

The following night, however, Knightshead contacted her, asking why she did not send him anything, according to text messages included in the complaint. No longer thinking he was joking, she dodged the question, but the next day Knightshead texted her again about the matter. She responded via a text message that sending the photos would be inappropriate.

When the employee saw Knightshead in the office after the incident, she claims he remarked about her “not being his ‘office boo’ anymore.” He then allegedly caressed her arm and asked her to walk with him, putting his arm over her shoulders. Another employee witnessed this, though the name is redacted in the complaint.

Knightshead received a written warning from Batson for “inappropriate communications” and was directed to attend an Equal Employment Opportunity policy workshop and supervisor training. Batson could not be reached for comment this morning.

The other documented disciplinary action against Knightshead came in 2012 when he was suspended without pay for nearly a month in late February. Knightshead’s disciplinary file gives no reason for the suspension, stating only that he was “placed on administrative leave without pay pending the results of our investigation.” There’s no mention in the files as to what the “investigation” concluded.

Knightshead declined comment on both the 2012 and 2016 incidents as well as remaining with the parish attorney’s office beyond his resignation date.

It’s clear Batson, who took over as parish attorney for the fired Mary Roper in 2015, wanted to keep Knightshead on her staff. Yet, Knightshead bristled at new office policies implemented by Batson in 2016—particularly one requiring the elimination of conflicts of interest in an attorney’s private practice.

Knightshead, citing his opposition to the policies, tendered his resignation in December, with an effective date of Jan. 31.

Meanwhile, it was at this time that Metro Councilman LaMont Cole began an effort to remove Batson as parish attorney. Batson, in emails obtained by Daily Report, claims Cole wanted Knightshead to replace her prior to his resignation taking effect.

Batson chose to resign, rather than face a hearing before the Metro Council.

The events of what was supposed to be Knightshead’s final week with the parish attorney’s office are murky. On Wednesday, Dotson told Daily Report that he had not requested Knightshead remain on the public payroll beyond the scheduled Thursday resignation date. Asked specifically if Knightshead would still be on the parish attorney’s staff on Friday, Dotson declined to comment.

Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson says he has not seen Knightshead’s personnel file so he cannot comment on the harassment complaint or the suspension. The Metro Council oversees the parish attorney’s office.

Wilson, however, says Dotson did reach out to him this week about keeping Knightshead on as first assistant, but Wilson told him he disagreed because Knightshead had broken office policies.

“He wanted to keep him on because of his experience, but if we’re getting rid of one (Batson), let’s get rid of both,” Wilson says. “Don’t clean up just one part of the office—clean up all of it. We can’t have one set of rules for one person but not another.”

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