KILLIAN – The Town of Killian remains without a police chief after two councilmen abstained from a motion to promote assistant Richard Fletcher to the post vacant since May.
Efforts to make Fletcher permanent chief fizzled when councilmen Gillis Windham and Blaine LaMarie declined to vote on the issue at the March 13 Town Council meeting.
Council members Paul Canik and Brian Bickley supported Fletcher’s promotion, while councilman J.J. Barnum was absent.
Interim-Mayor Peter Bock recommended Fletcher’s promotion.
“No more of this interim business,” he said.
Bock could have cast a tie-breaker only if Windham and LaMarie voted “no,” Town Attorney Brian Abels said after the meeting.
“By abstaining, it’s like they weren’t even there for those votes,” Abels said.
Windham said Wednesday he abstained because he thought the town should have motioned to appoint Fletcher for an interim spot instead of a full-time post.
“Had the mayor said 'interim,' the boy probably would’ve gotten the job because I want our next mayor in November to pick the next chief,” he said. “I’d rather the next mayor not have his hands tied, and it’s a very strong possibility the next mayor might want Fletcher as chief.”
Councilman Paul Canik and several of the 30 or so spectators in the tiny, crowded chamber accused Windham and LaMarie of “holding the town hostage.”
“We just wanted promote him and move on,” Canik said.
LaMarie said he abstained because Hill had been POST-certified “a little over a year.”
“I’ve run a business for twenty-seven years and I’ve run this place for nine months,” Fletcher replied. “From this day forward, I’ll do my patrol and my own paperwork – that’s it – and I’m not telling them what to do and I’m not signing nothing … ya’ll can do it yourselves from this day forward.
“If ya’ll don’t want to pay me for doing the job, ya’ll make the decision or the sheriff’s department … whatever ya’ll want to do,” Fletcher said as he left the town hall.
The ill-fated motion continued a rift between two factions on the council which began May 30, 2017, when the town council voted 3-2 to fire Hill longtime Police Chief Dennis Hill, a well-liked member of the community.
Mayor Craig McGehee – in his last meeting as mayor – cast the tie-breaking vote. He resigned the same night to accept a job in Midland, Texas.
The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested Hill Feb. 8 on one count of malfeasance in office. His arrest came one month after findings of Legislative Auditor Darryl Purpera’s six-month-long investigation followed suit on the town’s allegations that led to Hill’s firing.
Windham said his abstention did not stem from him wanting to put Hill back in office.
“I did this out of respect for Dennis, even though I know he’s better off where he is in Albany as a detective,” he said. “He makes more money and he has health insurance, something we can’t afford here, which is why we’re nothing more than a training ground for officers.”
Albany Mayor Gene Glasscock said Wednesday morning that Hill had been relieved of his duties shortly after the 21st Judicial District Court issued the malfeasance indictment.
Hill allegedly falsified time sheets, used a town credit card for fuel on a personal vacation to Gulf Shores, Ala., as well as for a suit at Men’s Warehouse. Hill also allegedly lost three books of traffic citations.
Windham told the crowd he would not vote to hire a new chief – a move he said was out of respect for Hill. He said the former chief has been the target of “malicious propaganda” by residents and the media.
“You may have heard all the conjecture about these charges that they said may be on Dennis, but when the district attorney and grand jury met, they threw out all these charges except one minor charge – and it’s a small felony – of malfeasance in office, but it’s far less than a thousand dollars, so it means it may have to be dropped to a misdemeanor, but we’ll find out when he goes to court in April,” he said.
Hill’s arraignment is set for April 4 at the Livingston Parish Courthouse.
LaMarie and Windham also abstained on a vote to raise the salaries for the police chief, the two officers and Town Clerk Julie Monteleone.
Windham said he would not vote on a salary increase until he sees the 2019 budget, which will go before the council in May. He said the council has a deficit of around $30,000.
Fletcher, 47, has handled the duties of police chief since June, but he has not received the salary for the position.
He said Wednesday he would remain with the department, despite not receiving the promotion.
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“I’m going to stick it out,” Fletcher said. “I made a promise to the people that I would do the job, and I’m going to continue doing it.”