If Metro Council fires Batson as parish attorney, will her top deputy be tapped as replacement?

Baton Rouge City Hall (File photo)

Metro Councilman LaMont Cole isn’t saying why he’s pushing to remove Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson, but two city-parish officials say he wants to appoint outgoing first Assistant Parish Attorney Tedrick Knightshead to the position.

Knightshead submitted his resignation in November, which takes effect Jan. 31.

Batson on Dec. 26, according to emails obtained by Daily Report, wrote that Cole indicated he would place an item on the council agenda to remove Batson and “is interested in appointing Tedrick Knightshead in my place.”

Metro Councilman Matt Watson says he’s also heard Cole wants to replace Batson with Knightshead, though he declined to comment further.

Cole did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Batson, when asked about her emails, declined comment. Also not talking is Knightshead, who opted not to comment or say if he would accept the position if offered.

The emails, in which recipients are redacted, also discuss the reasons for Knightshead’s resignation, which stem from his unwillingness to adhere to office policies implemented in 2016.

Batson writes that when she was appointed to the position, she committed to eliminating issues within the parish attorney’s office identified by the Metro Council when it fired her predecessor, Mary Roper. Among the issues raised was the need for a policy regarding attorneys handling private practice cases that could create conflicts of interest, and staff attorneys not working full-time schedules. Office policies were revised in 2016, prohibiting such conflicts and requiring staff to track work hours.

Knightshead initially offered to resign in October, saying he did not want to track work hours, according to the emails. Batson, in response, waived the rule for division heads so that Knightshead would stay.

In November, Batson discovered Knightshead was representing criminal defendants arrested by Baton Rouge Police in his private practice, violating the new office policy. Staff attorneys are prohibited from handling cases in which BRPD is the arresting agency, because the Parish Attorney’s Office represents the city-parish agencies, including the police department in lawsuits and other matters.

The emails note, however, that the Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled it is not a conflict for city prosecutors to represent criminal defendants.

Knightshead said he would withdraw from the cases but did not, according to the emails. When Batson gave him a deadline to withdraw, he decided to submit his resignation in late November.

Batson sent notice of Knightshead’s resignation on Dec. 13 to council members, saying she was sorry to see him go and hoped he will stay on to serve in a “less demanding capacity.”

Two weeks later, the council administrator notified Batson of Cole’s agenda item to have her removed. The item is scheduled to be introduced at Wednesday’s meeting.

Asked for comment, Metro Council members Tara Wicker, Barbara Freiberg, Scott Wilson, Dwight Hudson and Denise Amoroso all say they do not know why Cole wants to remove Batson.

Councilwoman Chauna Banks says Cole told her he received several calls from office staff regarding conflict and mistreatment in the office, but did not mention wanting to appoint Knightshead as a replacement.

The remaining council members—Trae Welch, Chandler Loupe, Donna Collins-Lewis and Erika Green—did not return calls or emails for comment as of this morning’s deadline.

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