By Kate Stevens
Special to The Advocate
December 26, 2012
SORRENTO — The Town Council delayed action on promoting a police officer to the rank of assistant police chief and also postponed a decision on whether to hire a full-time police officer.
Councilman Jason Adams said during Tuesday night’s council meeting he could not vote to promote Officer Ricky Smith or hire James Bell, but volunteered to meet with Police Chief Earl Theriot and other councilmen to discuss the issue Wednesday.
“At this point I’m not willing to hire anybody we haven’t even looked at yet,” Adams said.
Theriot urged council members to hire several police officers soon because the Police Department is down to only two full-time officers, Smith and Kermit Givens.
A third officer, Catherine Gil, was recently hospitalized, Theriot said.
“I don’t have the manpower,” Theriot said. “We can’t get the protection. We can’t do nothing with just two people.”
A fourth police officer, Tige Scott, is possibly out on medical leave and hasn’t worked for a month, Town Clerk Fern Barnett said.
The department is spending $3,500 monthly on overtime pay, which is “killing the budget,” Theriot said.
Theriot said he wants to promote Smith to succeed Assistant Police Chief Billy Ballard, who was fired by the Town Council in August after Ballard became the subject of an internal investigation involving alleged policy procedure violations.
Smith also was questioned in the same investigation, but the Town Council declined to take action against him.
In related police matters, the Town Council met for 45 minutes in executive session to discuss possible litigation by Gil, Scott and Givens, who have said they allegedly suffered harassment and retaliation tactics from Theriot.
After Tuesday’s meeting, town attorney Donovan Hudson said no lawsuit has been filed against the town, but that Gil, Scott and Givens had requested the town to settle their complaints financially.
The Town Council rejected that offer, Hudson said.
Mayor Wilson Longanecker Jr. and Councilmen Milton “Needlenose” Vicknair, John Wright, Marvin Martin, and Jason Adams attended Tuesday’s meeting. Councilman Randy Anny was absent.