FRENCH SETTLEMENT – The wife of embattled French Settlement Police Chief Harry Brignac said her husband will hire an attorney and fight the allegations that led to his arrest Wednesday.
The arrest stemmed from Brignac’s alleged use of a town fleet fuel card to purchase gas for his personal pickup truck May 15. He allegedly made a 24-gallon fuel purchase – at a total cost of $60.00 – at a convenience store on La. 16 in French Settlement, according to Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard.
Brignac turned himself in to the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office on malfeasance in office and injuring public records – both felony charges. He was also charged with one count of misdemeanor theft.
The police chief would not speak to media, Tammy Brignac said, but she cited a mix-up to the use of the town credit card.
“I have a business card I use also, and it looks the same as the town hall card,” she said. “He went to fill our truck, and he just pulled out the wrong card. I know they’re trying to pull more stuff, and I think they say there may be more charges and they may be looking into it, and that’s fine … they’re doing their job and we understand that, but he’s been serving his community for 34 years and I think he’s entitled to a few mistakes.”
The arrest continues several years of a tension between the police chief and Mayor Toni Guitrau, who had brought a proposal to voters in 2015 to change the post of police chief from an elected to appointed position.
“She’s trying to grasp at anything she can get to hold against him to get him out of his position,” Tammy Brignac said. “It’s sad, and I hope this community will understand and let things come out through court.
“He’s been here too long and did so good to so many people,” she said. “I just don’t want people giving up on him.”
Tammy Brignac said her husband has been honest and cooperative throughout the investigation. She said the reason behind her husband’s arrest was petty in comparison to his peers.
“For 34 years, he has done everything by the book and it only started lately when the mayor started harassing him because she wants him out, and it started when she tried to get his position appointed,” she said. “We’ve caught hell ever since.”
Guitrau said she would not comment outside of the statement she issued upon his arrest.
She said as mayor, she turned the matter over to the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, where it remains under investigation. The French Settlement police chief is an elected official and therefore not an employee of the mayor and board of aldermen.
Brignac, 71, was first elected police chief in 1984. He served continuously until 2016, when the Louisiana Board of Ethics forced him to step down from his post because he failed to file financial disclosure reports three consecutive years.
He paid the fines and regained his seat by a 17-vote margin over his opponent in a special election in spring 2017.