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Brown v. Monroe Municipal Fire and Civil Police Service Board

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

December 17, 2018

REGINALD D. BROWN Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
MONROE MUNICIPAL FIRE AND CIVIL POLICE SERVICE BOARD, HARDEMAN CORDELL, SR., CHAIRPERSON BILLY WOODS, ALFRED RAYFORD, BENJAMIN BAW Defendants-Appellees

          Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 2017-3507 Honorable Bernard Scott Leehy, Judge

          PLEASANT, WILLIAMS & BANKS- MILEY LAW GROUP, LLC By: Jessica W. Williams Kristen B. Pleasant Donecia Banks-Miley Counsel for Appellant

          Donecia Banks-Miley HAMMONDS, SILLS, ADKINS & GUICE, LLP By: Elmer G. Noah, II Justin N. Myers Counsel for Appellees

          Before WILLIAMS, COX, and BLEICH (Pro Tempore), JJ.

          COX, J.

         Corporal Reginald D. Brown filed suit against the Monroe Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board ("Board"), Hardeman Cordell, Sr., Billy Woods, Alfred Rayford, and Benjamin Baw on October 25, 2018, alleging a violation of the Open Meetings Law. The trial court granted the Board's exceptions of no cause of action and lack of subject matter jurisdiction, dismissing the suit. Cpl. Brown has appealed the trial court's ruling. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS

         Cpl. Brown submitted his application to the Board to take the examination for the position of Chief of Police for the City of Monroe, Louisiana ("exam"). At a public meeting on October 17, 2017, the Board determined that Cpl. Brown did not qualify to take the exam and rejected his application.

         On October 25, 2017, at 4:10 p.m., Cpl. Brown's counsel emailed the Board's attorney, informing him that she intended to file "a preliminary injunction against administering the police chief exam and a hearing to show cause on other matters." The Board's attorney responded at 4:28 p.m. that he had been trying to reach her office since 8:30 a.m. to notify her that a special meeting had already been scheduled earlier that day for October 31, 2017, to discuss the reconsideration of Cpl. Brown's application to sit for the police chief exam. Cpl. Brown's petition was then filed at 4:30 p.m.

         Cpl. Brown alleged in his petition that the Board violated the Louisiana "Open Meetings Law" (LaR.S. 42:¶ et seq.) on October 17, 2017, by asking members of the public to leave the meeting without a formal motion and vote by two-thirds of the members. He further alleged the Board violated the Open Meetings Law by discussing his competency without notifying him, in writing, within 24 hours of the meeting.

         At the Board's meeting on October 31, 2017, the members reconsidered Cpl. Brown's application. The Board determined that Cpl. Brown did, in fact, meet one of the qualifications through his education and unanimously voted to allow him to sit for the exam. Cpl. Brown sat for the police chief exam on November 16, 2017, on its originally scheduled date.

         The Board filed exceptions to Cpl. Brown's petition. The first was an exception of subject matter jurisdiction/mootness. The Board argued that if there were violations of the Open Meetings Law, those violations were cured when the special meeting was held. It stated that in the absence of a controversy, the lawsuit was moot. In the alternative, the Board argued three additional exceptions: no cause of action, improper cumulation of actions, and insufficiency of service of process. Judgment was rendered in open court on May 10, 2017. The district court granted the Board's exceptions of lack of subject matter jurisdiction/mootness and no cause of action. Cpl. Brown's petition was dismissed with prejudice at his cost.

         DISCUSSION

         First, Cpl. Brown argues that the district court erred and incorrectly granted the exception of lack of subject matter jurisdiction/mootness. Cpl. Brown argues the first meeting violated the Open Meetings Law because the Board asked members of the public to leave before voting on all the candidates. He alleges the violation was not cured at ...


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