In response to the Letter to the Editor posted March 3 in the Leesville Daily Leader, the following are questions and answers pulled from the Lawrason Act (revised 10/2017) which governs all municipalities in Louisiana.
I have added a few personal comments as indicated. (Highlights and underlines have been added)
Q.19. What are the powers, duties, and responsibilities of the Chief of Police or Marshal? R.S. 33:423
A.19. The chief of police is ex officio a constable. He or she has general responsibility for law enforcement in the municipality and is charged with the enforcement of all ordinances within the municipality and all applicable state laws. He or she is to perform all other duties required of him or her by ordinance.
■ An elected chief is to make recommendations to the mayor and board for appointment of police personnel, for the promotion of officers, to effect disciplinary action, and for dismissal of police personnel. The nominations or recommendations are to be made regardless of race, color, disability, or creed; R.S. 33:423
The duties, responsibilities and qualifications of an appointed chief are defined by ordinance. He or she has no other authority.
AG Op. No. 05-0127
The chief of police, elected or appointed, may not, by agreement, transfer any powers and duties to the mayor.
AG Op. Nos. 00-0051 and 06-0105
The mayor does not have the authority to control the expenditures of the police department. The chief of police has the inherent authority to control or administer the day to day operations of the police department.
The Chief of Police is responsible for the control of the expenditures of the police department such as the salaries, supplies, etc. Do not believe the New Llano Chief of Police has controlled his expenditures or enforced all the ordinances and applicable state laws. He apparently does not write citations because he does not want to upset the voters who might vote for him. It is my understanding he does not encourage his patrol officers to write citations such as moving violations, ordinance violations, etc.
Chief Hunt at the last Mayor/Council meeting indicated he had a number of individuals who met the criteria to be hired as a Patrol officer to fill the one vacancy. He provided a recommendation, but it was not approved by the Mayor/Council. Chief Hunt did not provide any other names since his preference for the hiring of an individual who I believe was friend, was rejected. He did not make any other recommendations and just left the position vacant. This does not appear to be a man who puts the citizens of the town ahead of his personal desires.
Q.37. What other powers and duties does an elected Chief of Police have?
A.37. R.S. 33:423 provides for the powers and authority of an elected chief of police with regard to disciplinary action for police personnel. The statute also provides for provisional appointments by the chief to fill vacancies, subject to approval by the mayor and the governing authority.
Chief Hunt had a budget established by the Mayor/Council. Since the budget was established based upon expected income to include the writing of citations for enforcing the ordinances and laws of the Town and State based upon previous years, this failure to write the citations resulted in the lack of income to meet the projected amount budgeted for the Police operations which the Chief helped to establish. To my knowledge no written notice was provided to the Mayor/Council that expenditures such as salaries, supplies, insurance, etc. had exceeded the budget, nor any recommendations provided to correct the situation. Hence, the police budget had to be amended to reduce the budget funds to reflect the anticipated funds available for the continued operation of the police department and other departments. This resulted in the reduction of police force to Chief Hunt and two patrol officers. At the time the budget was amended, Chief Hunt provided the names of the two patrol officers he wanted to keep with the rest to be terminated. The Mayor/Council approved Chief Hunt’s recommendations. However, it is my understanding these two patrol officers recommended by Chief Hunt and approved by the Mayor/Council quit the police force instead a continuing to work for the Town.
In a Lawrason Act municipality (R.S. 33:321, et seq.) with an elected Chief of Police, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen may not adopt an ordinance that interferes with the Chief of Police's day to day operations of his or her department. However, in such a municipality with an elected Chief of Police, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen do have decision making authority regarding the hiring and termination of police personnel. Pursuant to the Louisiana Local Government Budget Act, an elected Chief of Police must provide written notification to his or her municipal governing authority in the event his or her department exceeds its fiscal operating budget as delineated
Chief Hunt apparently did not comply with the Louisiana Local Government Budget Act by failing to provide written notification to Mayor/Council when his office exceeded its fiscal operating budget. Chief of Police has continuously stated he did not get a copy of his budget. I am sure if he really wanted a copy of the budget he could have gotten a copy. I believe he is using his failure to obtain a copy of the police budget as an excuse for exceeding his budget and failing comply with the Louisiana Local Government Budget Act.
What is to prevent him from using the same excuses for failing to operate within the future budgets and not complying with the Louisiana Local Government Budget Act?
If the ordinance of the municipality and laws of the state are not being enforced, shouldn’t we find someone who will honor the oath of the office and to enforce the appropriate ordinances and laws.