Ridgecrest fires water superintendent

Published 12:06 am Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ridgecrest — The Ridgecrest Board of Aldermen voted to terminate Water Superintendent Paul Dillon after 45 minutes in executive session at a specially called meeting Friday night.

Four of the five aldermen voted in favor of the termination, with alderwoman Cindy Halford voting against the termination.

The termination stems from an incident that occurred at the town’s water plant on Thursday, July 5, when the town’s water supply was believed to be in danger.

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After Mayor Dwayne Sikes confronted Dillon at the water plant regarding an unrelated issue, arguments became heated and Police Chief Larry Lawrence escorted Dillon off the property.

Dillon, who has been in the job four years, said certain valves and switches were turned off at the water plant for maintenance purposes, which he does every morning, when he left.

Not having time to complete his maintenance work before being escorted from the plant, Dillon said he called the town hall to inform them that the valves needed to be turned back on in order for the town’s water supply to remain properly functioning.

Town Clerk Cyndie Dillon, Paul’s wife, received the call and informed Alderman Robert Maples before calling the Louisiana Rural Water Association for further guidance.

Several aldermen said that Paul Dillon should have called the mayor directly if the town’s water situation was in danger.

“Why didn’t you call the mayor if something was wrong?” Alderwoman Jamie Harrison said.

Sikes agreed and also dismissed comments from the public that claimed Paul Dillon’s actions were an attempted sabotage on the town.

“I don’t believe Paul would have done anything like that,” Sikes said. “He just made a mistake by not telling me something was wrong.”

After receiving word from Maples regarding the incident, Sikes said he went to the water plant and found several other valves and switches turned off. Sikes said he called Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copleand for assistance, and a Vidalia city employee visited the plant to ensure the town’s water supply wasn’t in danger. Later a Louisiana Rural Water Association representative visited the plant to give his input.

“That level 4 operator that they sent down here found a lot more things shut down than he said,” Sikes said. “We weren’t told the whole plant was shut down, we were told only one or two valves you were working on were shut down.”

Sikes said after the meeting that the LRWA recommended that JCP Management take over water plant operations. JCP Management is a third party operator that also manages the Town of Ferriday’s water plant.

Sikes said JCP officials are currently operating the plant, but a finalized contract for full-time maintenance and operations hasn’t been discussed.

Paul Dillon, who was at the meeting, said the board had not discussed any allegations with him or allowed him to explain; therefore, Dillon said he felt wronged by the entire termination process.

“We should have talked about this prior to y’all going back into that room,” Paul Dillon said. “All I want to do is tell the people of Ridgecrest that I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Cyndie Dillon said after the meeting that the board also didn’t follow proper procedure with the termination. She said if an employee’s termination is being discussed, Louisiana law states that employee has the option to discuss the matter in a public meeting or go with the board into executive session.

The board requested Paul Dillon turn in his keys, cell phone and to clear any personal belongings from the water plant immediately.