New Iberia appoints liaison to Iberia Sheriff’s Office, extends law enforcement contract for one year _lowres

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal, left, arrives at the federal courthouse for an arraignment Thursday, March 31, 2016, in Lafayette, La. Ackal and his second-in-command, Gerald Savoy, pleaded not guilty to civil rights and conspiracy charges Thursday during a federal court hearing.

Former St. Mary Parish Sheriff David Naquin begins work Wednesday as New Iberia’s liaison to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office in a six-month effort to ensure the law enforcement agency is upholding its contract to provide comprehensive police services for the city.

The New Iberia City Council on Tuesday also extended the Sheriff’s Office contract for one year, ending June 30, 2017, into the tenure of a new mayor and council taking office next year.

Naquin will receive $4,000 monthly for the duration of his contract, which expires in December 2016 at the end of term-limited Mayor Hilda Daigre Curry’s tenure.

The city eliminated the liaison position in 2012 because of budget constraints, but Curry requested a council vote to reinstate it. She said citizen complaints had increased in recent months that patrols were not visible in neighborhoods plagued by crime.

“We have to have some type of plan to be able to address the more serious things going on in New Iberia. We have shootings in New Iberia almost every night,” Councilman David Merrill said. “We need to have patrols in these areas constantly.”

Councilwoman Peggy Gerac said she supports efforts to improve law enforcement, but she expressed concern with the conduct of both children and parents in the West End neighborhood she represents, where she said young teens carry guns and fight in the streets without any repercussion from parents or adults.

“This is too much for anybody — for the whole city. These children gone wild, and something’s gotta be done,” Gerac said.

The Sheriff’s Office has provided law enforcement for the city since 2004, when city officials dissolved the New Iberia Police Department because of budget constraints.

The Sheriff’s Office contract was set to expire June 30, with both parties required to give a one-year notice should they wish to cancel the agreement that’s been renewed for four years at a time in the past.

The federal indictments of Sheriff Louis Ackal and his second-in-command, Gerald Savoy, in an investigation into inmate beatings — one that’s already led to guilty pleas from nine of Ackal’s former employees — also leaves the administration’s future in limbo. Ackal’s and Savoy’s trial dates have not been set.

Curry said Naquin can help with a transition should the contract be canceled in the future.

“I certainly don’t plan to bring the police department back, but we’re going to be prepared for whatever may happen,” Curry said.

Council members expressed concerns with the current contract’s language and expressed a need to renegotiate the terms.

“I believe it to be very vague. It has really no clauses of any accountability. I would like to see a contract that has a little more meat and potatoes in it,” said council member Natalie Lopez-Robin.

Councilman Robert Suire cast the sole opposing vote to the resolution.

Suire said after the meeting he would like to see the contract extended for a longer period, as continuing declines in sales tax collections do not leave the city in a financial position to reconstitute its police department.

“This is not a time to start jumping ship,” Suire said.

Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.