Mayor Jamie Mayo’s administration cleared interim Monroe Police Chief Reginald “Reggie” Brown of any wrongdoing in a recent complaint accusing Brown of lying about a citizen’s public records request.
Monroe businessman Nicholas “Nick” Farrar filed a complaint with the city on Feb. 14, claiming Brown lied to City Attorney Angie Sturdivant when the police chief claimed the public has “never been allowed” to inspect a police officer’s Internal Affairs records.
The city closed the investigation and chalked up the discrepancy in Brown’s statements to a misunderstanding.
Brown’s IA records have become the center of a legal dispute among Farrar, The Ouachita Citizen, Monroe businessman Eddie Hakim and the city of Monroe. The city sued Farrar, The Ouachita Citizen and Hakim in February after each party submitted separate public records requests seeking copies of Brown’s IA records.
Brown previously underwent an internal affairs investigation for public payroll fraud among other alleged incidents. Mayo appointed Brown to serve as interim police chief on Feb. 1, and sources claim Mayo would like to make Brown the department’s permanent police chief.
According to Farrar, Brown lied to Sturdivant, because the police department has released IA records — even Brown’s — to members of the public, including this newspaper more than five years ago.
The Ouachita Citizen submitted its public records request for Brown’s IA records on Jan. 24. Later that afternoon, Brown sent an email to Sturdivant, outlining the department’s supposed policy on releasing IA records, email records show.
“The public has never been allowed to review employees IA files in person,” Brown wrote in his email to Sturdivant. “The most that has been given is the Date, IA case number and disposition of case.”
In his Feb. 14 complaint, Farrar asked the department to investigate Brown for lying and referred to the department’s “Truthfulness” policy. Farrar referred to one instance where Brown himself released IA records of other police officers and personally handed the documents to Farrar.
On March 2, the city’s chief operating officer, Jimmie Bryant, notified Farrar in an email that the investigation of Brown’s statements was officially closed.
“I thank you for your interest and concern for Local Government affairs,” stated Bryant’s email. “However, after inquiring about your attached memo, I find nothing more than a misunderstanding and/or alternate interpretation of what walk-in and review IA files (which appear to be sealed or safeguarded) in person means. Please consider the complaint listed below closed.”
Farrar asked Bryant whether the city had any other questions for him before closing its investigation. Bryant declined to ask any other questions.
“You clearly stated your issue in your email,” Bryant wrote.
Farrar challenged Bryant’s answer.
“Without following up or asking a single question of me how do you know?” Farrar wrote.
“It appears this is being swept under the rug.”
Meanwhile, a court hearing has yet to be scheduled in City of Monroe v. Nicholas Farrar, Hanna Media d/b/a The Ouachita Citizen and Eddie Hakim.
Last week, Farrar asked the Monroe City Council to seek a legal opinion from state Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office to determine whether a police officer’s IA records should be disclosed in response to a public records request.
“I’m asking for this body to request an AG opinion,” said Farrar.
An Attorney General’s opinion could be freely requested while a lawsuit would result in court costs and fees, possibly at the expense of city taxpayers, Farrar said.
“An attorney general opinion is free legal advice,” Farrar said. “It will cost the taxpayers nothing.”
City Council Chairwoman Juanita Woods thanked Farrar for his remarks but indicated the council was not prepared to seek an Attorney General’s opinion.
“I don’t think we’re in a position to make a decision one way or another,” Woods said.
“I will get with legal to have a conversation about what is the best decision to take.”