‘This is bigger than a trash bin,’ Parish resident says police jury acted criminally by stealing garbage container

Published 4:11 pm Tuesday, July 12, 2022

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VIDALIA, La.— David Cooley addressed members of the Concordia Parish Police Jury on Monday shaking with anger. He said a parish employee came onto his rental property on Moose Lodge Road and took away a large trash bin that belonged to him.

“In my opinion, a member acting in his official capacity as an elected member of the police jury instructing the barn to do this has implicated everyone on this board as well as the people working at the barn,” Cooley said. “This is criminal behavior—theft, trespassing and destruction of private property, a violation of my right to due process and I also believe it to be an abuse of authority and malfeasance.”

Scottie Whittington, whose district includes the property, responded by saying he instructed parish workers to clean the bin, not expecting them to haul the container away.

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However, Cooley said the parish kept the bin for over a week and, when he called to ask for its return, an employee told him it had been destroyed. He filed a complaint with the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office and the bin was found, still intact, and returned to him after the property tenant had already paid over $100 out of pocket to replace it.

“This is bigger than a trash bin. It sounds silly to be up here talking about a trash bin. But to me, and the sheriff agreed with me, the police jury doesn’t have the right to go on my property and take my stuff and they definitely don’t have the right to go steal it and destroy it.”

Whittington held up a picture of the bin on his cell phone to show Cooley. The picture shows several trash bags protruding from the top of the bin. Whittington said the picture was taken the day of last month’s police jury meeting, which was three days before Cooley said the bin was missing from his yard.

David Cooley’s brother Bernie Cooley, who is the principal of Vidalia High School, told the police jury they should not let the issue go unchecked. He added it would be “a locked-down civil case.”

“I’m ashamed of it,” Bernie Cooley said. “A member of the police jury took someone’s personal property off of their property without their permission. … It has been approximately 10 days before it was ever returned.  If all they were going to do was take it and dump it, couldn’t that have been done in an hour or so?”

In other matters during Monday’s meeting of the Concordia Parish Police Jury, juror Joseph Parker made a motion to appoint Catherine Darden to fill the jury’s open secretary and treasurer’s seat until a permanent replacement is hired.

His motion passed unanimously. Parker said the board would bring back two finalists from those who applied for the position to be interviewed again before the jury makes its final decision.

The position is being vacated by Sandi Burley as she moves on to a new position at Syrah Resources in Vidalia. Burley has continued to work for the jury since she announced her resignation last month and she will train Darden for the position.