Sorrento Town Council asks Jindal not to appoint interim police chief

The Town Council asked Governor Bobby Jindal on Tuesday not to appoint an interim police chief to fill the vacancy left when Earl Theriot resigned in February.

Council members Patti Poche, Marvin Martin and Donald Schexnaydre voted for the measure during a meeting Tuesday on the measure. Councilman Randy Anny cast the dissenting vote and Councilwoman Wanda Bourgeois was absent.

Shannon Bates, a spokesman with the Governor’s Office, has said the administration will defer to the will of the local community on the issue.

Theriot resigned as police chief after pleading guilty to lying to an FBI agent about inappropriate sexual conduct with an intoxicated woman the chief had picked up after a 911 call. Since Theriot’s resignation, the town has been without a police chief.

Anny questioned the necessity of the resolution.

“Why should I have to vote to send a letter to the governor, when the governor doesn’t have to appoint an interim police chief?” he asked.

“What if he does?” Martin countered.

Mayor Mike Lambert argued that filling the position temporarily would be a waste of money.

“An interim police chief would be ineffective to start any long-term programs,” he said.

Lambert added that Jindal has made a stipulation that anyone he appoints to hold an office in this kind of situation cannot subsequently run for the office.

By law, Assistant Chief of Police Ricky Smith cannot act as police chief because he doesn’t live in Sorrento.

The resolution approved by the council lists reasons for requesting that Jindal refrain from appointing an interim police chief, including that the city does not have a liability insurance policy covering the Police Department and the Police Department consists of only one officer, Smith.

The town has called for a special election Nov. 4 to allow voters to either elect a new police chief or dissolve the Police Department, eliminating the position of police chief.

If voters approve, the office would be eliminated at the end of Theriot’s term in 2017.

The town contracts with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office for police protection on nights and weekends for $36 per hour with Smith patrolling during weekday hours. The agreement is set to continue until the election.

Schexnaydre said that concern about having an uninsured Police Department was one reason he voted for the resolution.

The Police Department’s liability insurance provider notified the town in the fall that it would no longer offer coverage for the department. Lambert read a recent letter from the company reiterating that it will not provide insurance to the town without a police chief.

“Even if a police chief is elected (in November), the company will have to decide whether we will get insurance. There’s no guarantee,” Lambert said.

The council also received a draft of the town’s proposed budget for 2014-2015. The budget includes funding for the Police Department until November. After the meeting, Lambert said that if a police chief were elected, he or she would have to submit a budget for the council’s approval.