Attorney General opinion supports Clarence Police

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By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com

The Attorney General issued an opinion Feb. 11 on Village of Clarence Police Chief Earther Hall’s requests concerning actions by former Mayor Tommy Evans.

Hall specifically requested opinions on Evans’ authority to; terminate the elected Chief of Police and hire a marshal, terminate employees of the Police Dept., refuse to pay salaries for the Police Chief or employees of the department, or refuse to insure or cancel insurance on vehicles owned and utilized by the police department.

The Attorney General addressed each concern. The Village of Clarence is a Lawrason Act municipality and the Chief of Police is elected.

The Mayor had the authority to supervise and direct the operations of municipal departments, offices and agencies, with the exception of a police department according to the law as referenced in the opinion. The opinion further states the governing authority (Mayor) cannot infringe upon the Chief’s power and authority. Any dismissal of police dept. personnel must be recommended by the Chief.

Concerning refusal to pay insurance on police dept. vehicles, the opinion states the Mayor’s actions infringe upon the Chief’s authority to control police dept. funds. It further states the Mayor’s infringement could subject him to a suit fro mandamus. The Mayor also did not have authority to refuse payment of salary.

The opinion states, “The Mayor must implement the provisions of the budget ordinance and pay expenditures validly incurred by the Chief of Police.”

Police department salary, insurance on vehicles and expenses are under the authority of the Chief of Police. The Mayor has no rights to infringe upon that authority according to the opinion.

Evans was scheduled to appear in court Jan. 9 as a defendant in District Attorney Billy Joe Harrington’s suit of mandamus which was filed in October 2018. He did not appear, nor did he appear Jan. Jan. 7 in Baton Rouge to the La. House of Representatives for a fiscal review committee hearing concerning the Village of Clarence financials and administration. At the conclusion of that hearing the Village of Clarence was placed under the influence of a fiscal administrator.

Evans resigned from his position as Mayor.

The Times contacted the Attorney General’s office for clarification and comment but did not receive a response by press time. The Times will provide updates as they become available.