Last month, Mayor Lo Walker ran into controversy when at first the city would not terminate an employee found to have alcohol in his system, but below the legal level of intoxication, after an accident on a city-owned vehicle while on the job. The employee claimed he had not drank on the clock, meaning he must have experienced quite a bender the night before.
City policy did not dictate the automatic firing of employees under those circumstances, a policy initially defended by Walker who claimed the guy on the job for two months was a “good employee” and did not deserve an ignominious end to his brief tenure. But when Bossier City Councilman Bubba Williams introduced an ordinance that would introduce a zero-tolerance policy to seemingly-receptive colleagues, Walker backtracked and canned the partier as part of a reinstitution of zero tolerance.
That decision concluded the brief interlude of national publicity ridiculing the burg as a place where one could show up soused on the job – only to have the environs projected into the spotlight again through the antics of Bossier Parish Police Juror Rick Avery and his close encounter with alcohol, which occurred during the interval that Walker evolved on the zero tolerance issue.
The way Avery tells it, tooling around on his rural property he decided he might want to slug back a brew while on medication. He testified that he doesn’t remember much afterwards for some time, and certainly not the part where both Bossier City police and Bossier Parish deputies converged at his residence where he stopped after reports were called in warning of a dangerous driver.
But cameras rolled while he spoke with city police (after the agencies decided that one best suited to handle the delicate situation). He clarified to all present he was running next year for mayor, cited physical inability to perform a field sobriety test (related to the need for medication), and got hauled in when in the officers’ judgment he seemed impaired. Henceforth he took the opportunity to threaten their jobs upon his presumed future ascension to the city’s top job and threw in a racial slur to cap off a day of ignominy.
Perhaps all this belligerence paid off: unless Bossier City wants to acquire a reputation where the politically-connected walk from suspicion of commission of crime, future impaired individuals swept up by the BCPD might wish to emulate his tactic of verbally abusing officers, for orders came down to release Avery without even his taking the mandatory breathalyzer test. That led a few days later to the city launching an internal investigation on the matter.
Earlier this month Avery got around to apologizing directly to the Jury and by way of that to the citizenry. However, that does not change the adverse publicity he received from the incident, which delivered two rather unfortunate cues to voters: that he doesn’t possess the greatest judgment if he ever thought mixing medication and alcohol made sense and that he doesn’t mind trying to pull rank and receiving special privileges as a result of his political power.
That’s a tough sell to voters even in an era where the two major political parties will offer up as their presidential nominees a man who will seem to say anything no matter how uncouth or contradictory and a woman who apparently has stayed just one step ahead of the law for going on three decades. So Walker can breathe a sigh of relief that his alcohol-related incident should do less damage to his reelection bid than Avery’s would do to his attempt at Walker’s job.