Opinions split on hiring of Sicily Island police chief

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 22, 2000

SICILY ISLAND, La. — Opinions are split regarding the Sicily Island Board of Aldermen’s 2-1 vote Thursday to appoint a new police chief — a Kentucky resident town officials have never seen before.

William Eugene Coley, a former Natchez resident, could not reached for comment. He was recommended for the position by Mayor Anne Wycoff and was approved following a long-distance telephone conversation with Coley in an executive session.

&uot;It was pathetic, … the way they just interviewed him over the phone,&uot; said Sicily Island resident Charles Shaw, who was at the regular meeting but not the executive session. &uot;If you’re buying a car, you’re going to check it out first, right? And this is much more important than a car.&uot;

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Coley &uot;was the most qualified person for the job, from what I’ve heard,&uot; said former Police Chief William Mount, who was at the meeting. &uot;Most of the others didn’t get their applications in on time. And no matter who they hire, people are going to jump on them for it.&uot;

In late August, the board accepted the resignations of Police Chief Guy King and Town Clerk Barbara Jackson who, according to town officials, resigned for personal reasons.

Former Assistant Town Clerk Shawaner Lewis was approved as town clerk Thursday.

Others vying for the chief’s job reportedly included longtime Catahoula Parish lawman Roosevelt Savage and former Ferriday Police Chief Eddie Newman.

&uot;When (Wycoff) was elected, she said she would hire local people,&uot; said resident Gwen James, adding that &uot;when we were at the meeting Thursday, it was like we weren’t there … like our comments didn’t mean anything.&uot;

Alderwoman Excelena Williams said good credentials, police training and certifications, years of experience in law enforcement and roots in the Miss-Lou made Coley a good choice for the police chief’s post.

&uot;He is willing to do more and learn more, to pursue more training,&uot; Williams said. &uot;Don’t just look at which applicants live closer (to Sicily Island). Ask, ‘Are they qualified?’&uot;

Williams added that Coley, who is now working as a pastor, is only being hired for a six-month probationary period. After that time, she said, his performance will be evaluated. &uot;He’s worth trying because of his experience,&uot; she said.

Meadville’s town secretary, Debra King, confirmed that Coley was that town’s police chief for at least two years.

&uot;That was about eight years ago,&uot;&160;King said. &uot;He’s conscientious and does a good job, though. He’ll do a good job for (Sicily Island).&uot;

Alderwoman Emma &uot;Donna&uot; Hillard would only say that &uot;I believe the new chief will be a positive thing for Sicily Island.&uot;

Alderman Tim Ford said he voted against Coley’s appointment primarily because Wycoff had promised to hire local people whenever possible. &uot;Second, we don’t know anything about (Coley) except he’s originally from Natchez and was looking to move back this way,&uot; Ford said.

&uot;I requested that we open back up the period for receiving applications, but the mayor said that was illegal.&uot;

Wycoff would say only that Coley was hired &uot;on the basis of his application and references.&uot;

She added the Louisiana Municipal Association doesn’t allow boards of aldermen to interview candidates.

But Tommy Darenbourg, director of communications for the Baton Rouge-based LMA, said that organization has no control over interviewing procedures.

&uot;It is highly unusual for a town not to have a formal method of screening candidates, especially for that kind of important decision,&uot; he said. &uot;But we have nothing to do with that.&uot;