Hammond City Council, in a 3-2 vote, has chosen a third-party legal consultant and an independent expert to investigate the controversial 2017 police booking room incident.
The council agreed to hire Michael Adams and his law firm DeCuir, Clark & Adams of Baton Rouge, using Seth W. Stoughton as a consulting expert. Councilmen Kip Andrews and Sam DiVittorio will serve as primary contacts of communication between the council and the third party consultants to help limit costs and aid efficiency.
Andrews said he recommended Adams after reaching out to various people. Adams recommended Stoughton to him.
According to his engagement letter, Adams’ rates are as follows: $300 per hour for partners, $225 per hour for associates, $100 per hour for legal assistants and $50 for law clerks. The council will also be responsible for all out-of-pocket charges, including federal express fees, long distance charges, necessary airline tickets, hotels, meals, rental cars and other expenses.
Adams said he will provide information to the council about the truth of what happened in the incident, if appropriate protocols were followed and if there were any violations relating to use of force, standard police operations and the conduct inside the police station.
Stoughton will work with Adams and be responsible for reviewing, evaluating and analyzing materials, preparing written reports or other materials, traveling, giving testimony and other reasonably required consulting services, according to his written fee contract.
His contract states that his consulting services are $320 per hour with a bill minimum of 15 minutes. Billing costs include consultant’s time for review, research, drafting, communications and correspondence, administrative time, travel (billed on a door-to-door basis), preparation for testimony, testimony, standy-by time and other consulting services.
An immediate $4,800 non-refundable advance on Stoughton’s consulting fees is required and will be applied to the first 15 hours of consulting services in the case, according to the contract.
The council currently has $100,000 in a council-specific attorney budget with $2,000 for consultant services in a line-item for this fiscal year.
Wells, DiVittorio and Andrews voted in favor of hiring Adams while Leon and Gonzales voted against. Gonzales was the only council member who voted against retaining Stoughton.
Gonzales said she was not comfortable with voting for Adams because the binding contract was not tailored enough for her, leaving a lot of room on the cost and scope of work being hired to do.
Adams suggested he could work with the council to develop the scope of work and to determine how much money the council would devote to different phases of the investigation.
When pressed about cost concerns, Adams said he does not think this will be a $100,000 project.
Andrews said he could not argue with spending the money on this because the city gave former police chief Roddy Devall “almost a million dollars.”
“I just want an answer to this, so we can put this thing to rest, so we can move forward,” Andrews said. “It’s a bad eyesore on Hammond. It’s not a black or a white issue – it’s a right issue.”
Gonzales and Andrews asked the attorney general and state police if those agencies would investigate this matter and were told they could not unless it is for criminal charges.
“We don’t have a dog in this fight,” Adams said. “We’re asked to come in and look at what happened.”
City attorney Andre Coudrain said the video of the incident is still being re-reviewed by the FBI.
Born in Bogalusa, Adams is a partner at DeCuir, Clark and Adams LLP in Baton Rouge and was admitted to the bar in 1988.
The firm represents large and small corporations, federal, state and local governmental, and nonprofit entities and individuals in various civil and governmental matters. The firm has represented two state university systems and their management or governing boards, East Baton Rouge Parish’s housing authority, state department of agriculture, state department of education and Louisiana’s attorney general office. Also, the firm has represented the private concerns of Exxon Mobil, a New Orleans based software company, a regional automotive parts retailer and contracting and engineering companies.
Stoughton is an associate professor of law in South Carolina. He served as an officer with the Tallahassee Police Department for five years, has written multiple book chapters and is the principal co-author of “Evaluating Police Uses of Force.”