KILLIAN – The Killian Town Council fired its police chief Tuesday night on allegations that he misused public funds – at the same time the town's mayor he will soon resign.
The Town Council voted 2-2 to terminate Police Chief Dennis Hill. Mayor Craig McGhee cast the tie-breaking vote against Hill, who allegedly hid or discarded traffic citations, purchased a suit gasoline on town funds and claimed state supplemental overtime pay while he vacationed in Gulf Shores, Ala.
The issue is now under the investigation of state Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, whose office seized Hill's two computers, along with Hill's iPad and iPhone, the town credit card, overtime records, gas records and ticket information.
Hill did not return phone calls Monday to The News.
McGhee, who steps down June 30, said he had planned to resign before the allegations with the police chief went public. He said Monday he accepted a job as a safety engineer in Midland, Texas.
The new council, which takes office July 1, will appoint an interim mayor – and possibly a temporary police chief – at its July 11 meeting.
McGhee will leave his post amid an investigation on issues he thought had begun over the last year.
"Now that I'm digging back, it may have gone back four years, even before I was mayor," said McGhee, 63, who has served four years as mayor and four as an alderman.
The town reprimanded Hill twice – once for the suit purchase, the other time for the missing tickets.
McGhee cited Hill in January over missing tickets – 73 random, and 125 from a full booklet that turned up missing.
The issue raised the mayor's eyebrows when a resident called the town clerk to pay a ticket she did not have on file.
"I asked Dennis for the ticket and he said he didn't have it, so I kept my eyes open," McGhee said. "One of the other officers said one time he dug around for a radio battery when Dennis wasn't around and found some old tickets that had never been processed.
"I knew this wasn't good and surely this couldn't continue after all the mess in Springfield over one ticket (a DWI citation which forced Mayor Charlie Martin out of office), so the more I dug around, I knew it was continuing, so that's when we asked for the missing tickets," he said.
The mayor said that Hill claimed he left the ticket book in a police unit which flooded in August, after which time a wrecker truck removed the car from police department.
Ticket books are issued by the state and serve as public documents not only for citations, but for the payment of the tickets. State law mandates proper filing of citation booklets.
"We had a program that would keep track of the tickets, but Dennis was keeping ledgers," McGhee said. "He didn't want to use the computerized system, and now it makes sense because it would've been harder for him not to turn in tickets."
One book contained 125 tickets, but the other missing citations are non-sequential, McGhee said.
"I'm pretty sure he lost the complete books, which isn't good, but as for the non-sequential ticket we don't know," he said. "I'm sure when the auditors come through, they'll go through with a lot more detail."
Another allegation says that Hill claimed time for state supplemental pay for working the Tickfaw 200 while he was vacationing in Gulf Shores. The town learned of Hill's whereabouts through a Facebook post, McGhee said.
"That added fuel to the fire," McGhee said.
McGhee also cited allegations that Hill bought a suit from Men's Warehouse on a town credit card.
The mayor said he raised suspicion about the suit purchase because the town purchased police uniforms from another business.
"I said if all other police suits came from one business, but then went to Men's Warehouse for another, the Legislative Auditor would want to know why," McGhee said. "I wanted something for the auditors to show that according to him, it was a police uniform or police suit.
"(Dennis) said it was cheaper to sew the patches than to buy them from the other place," he said.
The town issued Hill his second reprimand in January over missing tickets – 73 random, and 125 from five from five full booklet that turned up missing.
McGehee alleged that Hill used a gas card to fill a police unit for a trip to Florida for what the mayor said was a personal vacation. Hill also used the card for gas on the return to Louisiana.
The mayor said Monday that Hill reimbursed the town for the fuel purchases.
Hill served nine years as police chief.
"It's frustrating because you put a lot of faith in your police chief," he said. "It's hard because they're full time and I'm a part-time mayor, and when you put a lot of faith in them and then find out it was misplaced, it's disappointing."
The turn of events particularly disappointed McGhee because he considered Hill a good police chief.
"Dennis did a lot of good for the town with the dive team and raising money to get Christmas gifts for underprivileged kids, but it appears he didn't play by the rules," McGhee said.
Hill's termination leaves the town with one full-time officer and a group of reserve officers.. The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office will patrol the area until a new chief takes office.
McGhee said the timing for his resignation was awkward, but he said he could not turn down the job offer.
"I wasn't trying to leave the town in a lurch, but I need to make a living," he said. "The reason I did this had nothing to do with me going out the door … it just took a while for me to get my facts together on the police chief.
"My job offer came up when it did, and I never realized it would be at this time I would get a job offer," McGhee said. "It is what it is."