Sorrento council defers on police chief appointment

With a week to go to its deadline to appoint an interim police chief, the Town Council deferred on a decision Tuesday.

The Town Council must appoint a new police chief by Feb. 27 or Gov. Bobby Jindal will appoint one, Town Attorney Matthew Percy said.

On Tuesday, Ronnie O’Quin, a potential candidate, made a pitch to the council to take over the position abruptly vacated Feb. 7 by former Sorrento Police Chief Earl Theriot Jr.

O’Quin, 60, a lead technician at Air Products and Chemicals Inc., has lived in Sorrento for 18 years. He has little law enforcement experience.

“I feel like the town is at a crossroads in our Police Department,” O’Quin said. “Something’s gotta be done. We gotta get some dignity back to it and some honor back to it. I’d like to try to do that.

“I know we’re going through some rough times and I’m here to serve the people and protect the people,” he said. “That’s what I’m willing to do. I cannot do it without the help of the council and the town mayor and the people of Sorrento.”

C ouncil members decided to table the appointment until they can speak more with O’Quin.

The council could hold a special meeting prior to the Feb. 27 deadline, Councilman Randy Anny said. The council’s next regular meeting is not until March.

Whoever is appointed will serve as interim police chief until a new chief is elected to fill the remaining three years of Theriot’s four-year term.

A special primary election will be held Nov. 4, with a Dec. 6 runoff, if needed. The qualifying period for candidates is Aug. 20-22.

The position became vacant when Theriot abruptly resigned two weeks ago , then pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of lying to an FBI agent about an incident last fall in which Theriot admitted to “inappropriate sexual contact” with a woman.

Theriot’s resignation and guilty plea followed a particularly stressful time for the town after the Police Department’s liability insurance provider notified the town in October it would no longer offer coverage for the department effective Nov. 19.

The Police Department has been without insurance since that date and most of the council members faulted Theriot for the prolonged insurance mess with all but Anny signing a letter asking Theriot last month to resign.

Theriot refused, and his sudden resignation Feb. 7 took the town by surprise.

On Tuesday, Councilman Marvin Martin asked O’Quin if he had any law enforcement background.

“No, sir, I do not,” O’Quin said but explained he worked for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as a special agent in 1986.

Since then, O’Quin said, he also taught students at the River Parishes Community College for 13 years.

Councilwoman Patti Poche asked O’Quin why he had never gotten in touch with any council members prior to Tuesday if he wanted to help the town.

O’Quin said he had communicated with Anny but should have reached out to all the council members.

Martin asked how Assistant Police Chief Ricky Smith felt about the vacant position and Smith replied he did not live in Sorrento and could not be appointed or elected to the office.

Anny called the vacant chief of police position “an administrative position” and Smith agreed.

“We need a figurehead,” Smith said. “We need someone to step in so we can move forward with regaining our insurance.”

After the meeting, O’Quin said he would be willing to do more than just serve as an administrator and actually patrol if appointed.