PORT ALLEN — The City Council appointed 23-year Police Department veteran Sgt. Ken Bates as the city’s interim police chief on a 4-0 vote Wednesday night with one council member abstaining.

Bates, 50, will serve until a special election, tentatively scheduled for March 4, is held for voters to choose a new chief to serve the rest of former Police Chief Fred Smith’s unexpired term, which ends in December 2012.

Smith was convicted of 11 counts of racketeering, bribery and fraud last week in federal court at Baton Rouge.

He resigned from his office hours after the jury reached its verdict.

On Wednesday night, Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere nominated Bates, saying the sergeant is the department‘s most senior officer and meets the two legal parameters required of an interim chief: Bates is a registered voter and he has lived within the city limits for the past year.

Councilman Irvrie Johnson nominated a rival, police Lt. Eric “Super Cop” Frank, who ran for the office of police chief in 2008. Riviere objected to Frank’s nomination, saying he, Riviere, had documentation proving Frank does not live within the city limits.

“We’ve all been dealing with a lot for the past year, year-and-a-half,” Riviere said. “We’ve got to get this right.”

Frank, who attended the council’s special meeting, offered to show his own documentation that he said would prove his legal residence is in Port Allen, but the council first voted on Bates’ nomination.

Council members Riviere, Johnson, Roger Bergeron and Mayor Pro-Tem Ralph Bergeron voted in favor of appointing Bates. Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence abstained.

West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Mike Cazes spoke up during the meeting, saying he would do whatever is necessary to help the new chief.

Bates takes over a police department which he has served as a patrol officer, shift supervisor and as an administrator responsible for equipment and cars.

“I’m going to do the best job I can and try to bring back some integrity to this office,” Bates said after the meeting.

Smith, the city’s police chief since 2009, was ensnared in an FBI sting operation known as “Operation Blighted Officials.”

Smith was accused of accepting $4,000 in bribes, NBA game tickets and other gifts from undercover operatives posing as corrupt businessmen looking to do business with the city. The operatives were pitching an FBI-created garbage can cleaning service known as Cifer 5000.

Prosecutors said Smith illegally used a confidential law enforcement database to run background checks on people at the request of the undercover investigators. Smith also fixed traffic tickets for the operatives, gave one of them a police badge and wrote a letter to a Connecticut prosecutor seeking leniency for a drug defendant the former police chief didn’t know.

The city had 10 days after Smith’s conviction to appoint his successor.

On Wednesday night, Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere nominated Bates, saying the sergeant is the department‘s most senior officer and meets the two legal parameters required of an interim chief: Bates is a registered voter and he has lived within the city limits for the past year.

Councilman Irvrie Johnson nominated a rival, police Lt. Eric “Super Cop” Frank, who ran for the office of police chief in 2008. Riviere objected to Frank’s nomination, saying he, Riviere, had documentation proving Frank does not live within the city limits.