Judge voids vote to disband Homer PD - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Judge voids vote to disband Homer PD, remove chief

Homer Police Chief Russell Mills shakes hands with a Homer resident and supporter after court. Homer Police Chief Russell Mills shakes hands with a Homer resident and supporter after court.

The Homer Police Department will not be eliminated after all, and Police Chief Russell Mills will remain at the helm.

"I mean, I was elected as police chief until 2014," Mills says.

A Claiborne Parish district judge agrees, voiding on Monday the vote by the town's Board of Selectmen to disband the police department and remove Mills as chief. Mayor Alecia Smith had proposed the action, citing budget concerns, as well as concerns over leadership and pending litigation.

Mills filed suit against the town and mayor on behalf of himself and the department, arguing that the vote was not conducted legally, and that the board does not have the authority to remove him as chief or fire his officers.

"Everything they did was unlawful," Mills says. Mills and his attorney, Pamela Breedlove, told the judge that the closed-door vote violated the open meeting law. They violated another law when they voted to fire Chief Mills, Mills told the judge.

In a special meeting called over the weekend, the board voted again, this time to authorize the town attorney to admit that in court that they did violate the open meeting law.

On Monday morning, Claiborne Parish 2nd Judicial District Judge Jimmy Teat agreed, ruling that the vote taken in executive session on February 11 did violate the open meeting law and declaring the action null and void.

KSLA News 12's Fred Childers was in the courtroom for the hearing, and reports that when the judge explained in layman's terms what his ruling meant, the packed courtroom erupted in applause.

Mills' attorney says she will continue to fight to recoup the money Mills spent fighting the city. The city's attorney, Tom Arceneaux, says they just might get it.

"If they're successful, they're entitled to their attorney's fees. I believe that Chief Mills is entitled to some award, and that question is what should be the amount of the award," Arceneaux says.

The importance of the court's decision was highlighted by the crowd that packed the courtroom. They cheered when Teat announced his decision.

"The people of Homer are glad to have a police department," Mills says.

Arceneaux says that, because the city rescinded its first attempt to disband the department, whether it tries to do so again is a matter of public policy.

After a City Council meeting on Monday, Mayor Alecia Smith said the council made the decision to disband the police department because Chief Mills and his staff refused to work with the council to solve some of the town's budget problems.

"We've adjusted the budget at city hall and the public works department. Instead of hiring people full time we hired them part time. That's what we were asking the police department to do. Until we have a better economic feel we asked them to hire part time workers. We also have to adjust salaries. The police department didn't do either," said Mayor Smith.

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