WASHINGTON — Saturday’s vote to recall police Chief Ronelle Broussard means it is now up to the five-member Board of Aldermen to select an interim replacement.
Broussard, who was elected to a second term as police chief in 2014 in this town of just over 1,000, received only 44 votes out of the 287 votes cast in Saturday’s recall election, according to complete but unofficial returns.
Turnout was 35.6 percent of the 807 registered voters eligible to cast ballots in Saturday’s election.
State law requires the town’s Board of Aldermen to select an interim chief within nine days of the recall election, Registrar Cheryl Milburn said in an interview last week.
The board, which regularly meets on the third Monday of the month, has not yet indicated if it will call a special meeting to make the interim appointment.
The interim chief will serve until a special election is called to fill the remainder of the term, which ends Dec. 31, 2018.
Milburn said the committee that petitioned for the recall election delivered the signatures of 369 voters to the Registrar of Voters Office on Nov. 5. After verifying the addresses of the signatures on the petition, Milburn said, 356 were considered valid and those were sent to the Louisiana Secretary of State, which called Saturday’s election.
Dorothy Worthy, a member of the Concerned Citizens Committee, said the organizers were pleased with the turnout for Saturday’s election and the 85 percent who voted to recall Broussard, according to complete but unofficial returns.
“We were surprised at how many showed up. We won with flying colors,” Worthy said. “There were some voters who didn’t vote because they were scared of a backlash. It’s a small town.”
The committee initiated the recall drive in August because of Broussard’s absence from the Police Department.
Broussard has not been at work since February 2015, a month after his second term began, Worthy and other committee organizers have said.
In an interview prior to the election, Broussard said he was injured during an unspecified work-related incident in February 2015 and that doctors have ordered him to remain at home due to the injuries.
“I’m still in a no-work status,” Broussard said in that telephone interview.
Broussard also said he had been scheduled to undergo another back surgery on Thursday, two days before the recall election.
He said the scheduled Thursday back surgery was only one of several surgeries he has undergone since last February.
When asked to identify his specific injuries, Broussard declined and said any further inquiry about his medical condition should be directed to his attorney, whom he did not name.
Attempts to reach Broussard by telephone for comment on Monday were unsuccessful.
Worthy said she and other committee members have doubted the veracity of Broussard’s medical claims since he first made them public.
“If his injuries are so serious, why isn’t he on workman’s compensation?” Worthy said.
Worthy also said she still is unsure what role Mayor Joe Pitre will play in appointing the interim chief.
Pitre did not grant an interview regarding the election or the future of Washington’s Police Department on Monday.
Later, however, the mayor did issue an email response in lieu of an interview.
“The recall process is still ongoing as the Chief has certain options and there are established procedures to be followed. I do not think it would be appropriate for me to make any extended comments until all the legal amenities are completed.
“I have requested advice from the appropriate officials as to precisely how the town would proceed. We will of course follow the rules and regulations established in the Home Rule Charter of the town and by applicable state law.
“Recall was initiated by the concerned citizens of Washington, not by myself or other public officials, and it appears by the margin of the vote that citizens’ concerns were widespread and well founded,” Pitre wrote.