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Sorrento Town Council votes to terminate town's last remaining police officer

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SORRENTO, Louisiana — The Sorrento Town Council has voted to terminate the town's last remaining police officer and give him back pay for working as assistant police chief for nearly three weeks without receiving a salary.

Mayor Mike Lambert tells The Advocate (http://bit.ly/1n9sMqX ) after Tuesday's meeting where, in a 4-1 vote, the council accepted his recommendation to terminate Assistant Police Chief Ricky Smith.

Lambert cited budget issues and the police department's inability to secure liability insurance for its vehicles and officers as a reason for his recommendation.

Funding for the police department was drastically cut July 22 when the council amended the town's 2014-15 budget by eliminating salary line items for police officers and a part-time police clerk.

The amendment also eliminated Police Department funding after July 31.

Lambert said Smith has continued to report to work since the end of July.

Smith has said he fulfilled administrative duties at the Police Department office while the town pays the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office $36 per hour for police protection.

Perhaps the event that began the Police Department's tumultuous decline, the department's insurance provider, Risk Management Inc., did not continue providing coverage in November 2013. As a result, many of the department's officers resigned or were terminated.

On Tuesday, in a 3-1 vote with Councilman Randy Anny abstaining, the Town Council also voted to pay Smith $2,400, including vacation benefits, for the time he worked without pay.

Councilwoman Patti Poche voted against paying Smith this money because she said wanted Smith to promise not to sue the town if officials opted to give him back pay.

Anny said he was worried the town would "assume liability" if the Police Department's evidence custody chain was handled by anyone other than a commissioned police officer.

Town Attorney Matthew Percy said Smith voluntarily inventoried evidence stored at the Police Department this week with town accountant Jacob Waguespack.


Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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