HOMER, LA (KSLA) - Homer is a town of 3,174 with 10 people on the police payroll. That includes 8 officers, one chief and one secretary. In just two weeks, only two will remain after Homer's town board select members voted Monday to shut down most of the department. Mayor Alecia Smith says it was a unanimous decision, mostly for budget reasons.
"Overtime over the past 5 years is approximately $167,000 of overtime plus an additional $1.5 million in salaries just for that department over the last 5 years," said Smith.
The mayor also cited concerns over leadership and pending litigation.
"One year legal fees exceeded $220,000 just for that department," she said.
Smith plans to have the Claiborne Parish Sheriff's office take over the law enforcement needs of Homer. Sheriff Ken Bailey told KSLA he didn't know about the plan until the board voted Monday night, and that his department will need more resources to cover Homer.
"Whatever we have that the sheriff needs for availability to sustain and take care of the citizens, we plan to provide," said Smith.
However, the lawyer for Homer Police Chief Russell Mills says the actions taken may not be legal.
Voters elected Mills to the office of Marshal, and Homer's legislative charter automatically makes the Marshal the Police Chief as well. Attorney Pamela Breedlove argues that makes Mills an elected chief of police which would mean he can not be fired by the board or have his salary slashed.
"Louisiana State Constitution is very clear that elected officials, which Chief Mills is an elected chief of police, that elected officials salaries shall not be reduced during the term of the election," said Breedlove.
Breedlove also argues, under an act called the Larson Act, if Mills is an elected Chief of Police the board can not hire or fire his staff.
"They do not have the authority to terminate police officers without the recommendation of Chief Mills," she said.
Mayor Smith says she feels confident that the board followed the law and the town's charter.