Homer residents sounded off at tonight's council meeting only hours after Claiborne Parish 2nd Judicial District Judge Jimmy Teat voided their February 11 vote to disband the local police department.
The agenda included an ordinance to amend the police department's budget, but that measure was tabled. Mayor Alecia Smith, the council, and Police Chief Russell Mills will instead try budget negotiations again.
"We hope we provided some sense of unity tonight, and that we can all be on the same road forward," Mayor Smith says.
Public comments took up most of the meeting. Concerns included the council's disregard for open meeting laws, the mayor's travel expenses, and the attempt to disband the police department. Mayor Smith did not respond to the criticism. District 1 Councilwoman Linda Mozeke offered the only official explanation for their sudden vote last month.
"We have bent over backwards to try to work with [the department]," Mozeke says. "It was not our desire to end the police department. We just wanted the department to be responsible and accountable and try to work with us. And they were not doing that."
Smith says she increased the police department's budget from $325,000 to $360,000 when she took office in 2010. Smith says, however, that lawsuits and legal costs have fun that total as high as $800,000 a year.
Mills says he has cut three full-time and three part-time positions from his force.
"You take $1,000 or $1,500 or whatever you take out of the budget, and it's still going to hurt me in the end," Mills say of any further budget decreases. "I won't have enough money to pay my guys. I need more money not less moneys. If you get less money, you get less police."