PORT ALLEN - The police chief position is in limbo and will remain there until next week following Police Chief Fred Smith’s conviction Thursday on 11 federal racketeering and fraud charges.
Smith resigned his position shortly after the Baton Rouge jury announced their decision.
Police Capt. Ron Kauffman, the city’s highest ranking officer, is in charge until the City Council names Smith’s successor, Police Sgt. Ken Bates said Friday.
Smith, the city’s police chief since 2009, is the city’s third elected official ensnared by an FBI sting operation known as “Operation Blighted Officials.”
Smith accepted $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 a phony 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 to seek leniency for a drug defendant the former police chief didn’t know.
Smith joins former mayor Derek Lewis and former City Councilman Johnny L. Johnson Sr. as the Port Allen casualties of the sting operation.
City attorney Victor Woods said the City Council has 10 days to appoint a new chief.
“I am requesting this issue be discussed on Wednesday,” Woods said when the City Council holds committee meetings.
The council will have to choose a qualified person who is registered to vote in the city and who has lived in Port Allen for the past year, Woods said.
Whomever the council appoints will preside over the police department for an undetermined length of time.
Because there is more than a year remaining on Smith’s term, which would’ve expired in December 2012, the city is required to hold a special election to allow voters to select a new chief, Woods said.
Thursday’s conviction ends Smith’s nearly 20-year career working in West Baton Rouge Parish law enforcement.
Smith worked for the police department for 13 years in the 1990s and early 2000s before working as a school resource officer for the Brusly Police Department.
Smith later took a state job with the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice before returning to Port Allen and taking over as police chief in January 2009.
Following Smith’s conviction and subsequent resignation Thursday, an emotional Mayor R.J. Loupe Jr. said he and the former police chief “go back a long way.”
“I hope the best for Fred,” Loupe said. “He’s done a good job as chief. He made a lot of difference in this city.”
In addition to the three Port Allen officials, federal prosecutors have won convictions against former New Roads Mayor Tommy Nelson and former White Castle Mayor Maurice “Big Moe” Brown.
Former St. Gabriel Mayor George Grace is scheduled for trial in January.
White Castle Police Chief Mario Brown was acquitted in March during the same trial that resulted in the conviction of his brother, the former mayor.