DENHAM SPRINGS — Longtime Denham Springs police officer and newly promoted Capt. Shannon Womack will serve as interim police chief in Denham Springs, Mayor Gerard Landry said Thursday afternoon.
Earlier this month, Landry fired the city’s former police chief, Scott Jones, and police Capt. Steve Kistler after an investigative committee the mayor appointed found that they violated state law and departmental policy in handling a domestic violence incident involving City Councilman Chris Davis.
Davis’ wife, Robyn Davis, called police after sustaining a head injury in January during an altercation with Davis. Rather than arresting him, police issued Davis a summons to appear in court. Davis and his wife both now claim the injury was an accident.
Jones’ appeal hearing on his firing will be held at 6 p.m. on May 24, and Kistler’s will begin June 15.
After Thursday’s meeting, Landry said the city will move forward with a search for a new police chief immediately.
Police chief is a civil service position in Denham Springs, and normal civil service procedures for determining Jones’ replacement will be followed, Landry said.
Also Thursday, the council unanimously approved a $5,000 per month contract with Open Eyes LLC, a consulting firm run by former Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff LeDuff.
The contract is for 90 days with the possibility of one or more 30-day extensions if needed.
LeDuff’s firm will help the Police Department find opportunities to become better and ensure that the citizens of Denham Springs continue to receive a high level of service during this transitional period, he said.
Before the vote, Davis questioned whether the contract was put up for bid, adding: “$15,000 is a lot of money, and there is still the matter of the mayor’s salary being more than is allowed by the city’s ordinance.”
There was no discussion of Davis’ objections during the meeting; however, Landry confirmed afterward that the city is not required to put contracts for professional services up for bid.
Interviewed after the meeting, Davis said he had submitted his concern about Landry’s salary to the state attorney general.
The 2007 city ordinance states that the mayor should be paid $75,000, and Landry makes $81,000, Davis said.
“I just found this out a couple of weeks ago,” he said.
Asked whether Davis’ action could be considered retaliation related to the domestic violence incident, Landry said he couldn’t speak to the councilman’s motives.
The council voted for two cost-of-living pay increases for all civil service and non-civil service employees in 2008 and 2013, which included the mayor’s salary, city Human Resources Manager Gary Watson said.
Watson said he couldn’t remember whether the increases were 3 percent or 4 percent but confirmed that the mayor’s salary is now $81,000 as a result.
Former Mayor Jimmy Durbin was in office during both votes. Landry was elected in 2015.
“It was a line item on the budget, and (Davis) voted for the budget, I believe,” Watson said.