Sorrento Council, PD fight continues in meeting

Wade McIntyre

SORRENTO – The Town Council agreed Monday to have the police department purchase two Crown Victoria cars, the price of which will be refunded by a $40,000 state appropriation and police drug seizure and forfeiture funds.

During a contentious special meeting at Town Hall, the council also discussed placing limitations on officers living outside the town limits taking home police vehicles, but took no action.

Councilmen and Mayor Brenda Melancon were at odds with Police Chief Earl Theriot because he told the council his office was applying for a  $40,000 grant when it was actually an appropriation from the state in that amount that was already secured for the town through the efforts of Rep. M.J. "Mert" Smiley Jr..

Councilmen were also upset over high level duties given an unpaid auxiliary officer in Theriot’s department, and the officer’s use of a take home vehicle at no charge.

Theriot was belligerent through much of the meeting, repeatedly shouting down councilmen and Melancon when they addressed him.

As reported in The Weekly Citizen last week, Theriot attempted to have Melancon sign two checks which would have obligated the town to an agreement purchasing a sport utility vehicle and leasing two Crown Victoria police cars when the council only  agreed to purchase three cars.

After criticism from Councilman Randy Anny and Melancon for not bringing the agreement back to the council when he wanted to make changes to it, Theriot said he made a mistake.

He went ahead with the changes, Theriot said, because he was on a deadline with the revised purchase agreement.

“You could have called a special meeting,” Melancon said.

Councilwoman Troy Braud later accused Theriot of attempting to buy the SUV because he wanted to, even though the council agreement was not for an SUV.

Theriot last week told The Weekly Citizen he planned to purchase the SUV for the department, not himself. He currently drives a 2008 Crown Victoria.

The motion to rescind the earlier motion to purchase three cars and then buy two cars was made by Councilman Ed Pezant and passed unanimously, with Councilman Milton “Needlenose” Vicknair absent.

Councilman Randy Anny noted that the town buys a new police car once a year anyway, and that with the purchase of new car in 2009, the department would end up with three new cars.

“You’ll have six new cars next year,” he told Theriot.

During the heated discussion on reserve officer Michael R. Liker’s status with the department, town attorney Greg Lambert said Theriot allowing Liker to drive a vehicle home out of parish without paying the standard $35 weekly fee represented a “type of compensation.”

Theriot disputed the attorney’s advise, saying, “I don’t have to charge nobody.” He said the council never passed an ordinance regarding the department vehicle take home policy.

Penzant told Theriot, “We had an agreement and you chose not to honor it.”

“A free vehicle is a form of compensation,” said Lambert.

“So we can’t trust him,” Pezant said.

Lambert later advised the council that its police chief cannot choose to compensate a reserve officer without approval of the council.

Anny said it was also inappropriate for Liker, a reserve officer, to be performing administrative work.

As reported in The Weekly Citizen last week, Liker works a full-time shift and goes out alone on patrol even though he is a reservist. He carries a detective’s badge, arranges maintenance and scheduling of department vehicles, and looks over cases before turning them over to Theriot.

Under the title of captain, Liker’s name was used on the vehicle agreement paperwork submitted to Shelly King, audit and compliance interim supervisor with the state.