DENHAM SPRINGS — The Denham Springs City Council on a 4-1 vote Tuesday approved the selection of interim Police Chief Shannon Womack to fill the department's top post on a more permanent basis.
The council appointed Womack as police chief, with a six-month probationary period and a mandated council review after 90 days. Mayor Gerard Landry had recommended Womack from among 14 applicants for the position, including at least three other members of the department.
Denham Springs' interim police chief may soon hold the post on a more permanent basis.
Womack, a captain who has served as interim chief since May, said after the meeting that he is "honored, humbled and excited" by the appointment.
"This is giving some permanency to our situation that we desperately needed, and we're moving forward," Womack said.
Councilman Chris Davis cast the lone vote against the appointment. Davis said he has nothing personal against Womack, but he believes the city should have waited for a resolution to former chief Scott Jones' lawsuit against the city over his termination before naming a replacement.
Jones was fired April 7 over the department's handling of domestic abuse allegations against Davis which have since been dropped. The city's Civil Service Board upheld Jones' termination. He has asked the 21st Judicial District Court to overturn that decision.
Former Denham Springs Police Chief Scott Jones has asked a state court judge to overturn the…
City Attorney Stephanie Hulett said the city is legally required to appoint a new chief and could have opened itself up to lawsuits if the council had delayed the matter until Jones' case is concluded.
Councilwoman Lori Lamm-Williams, who requested the 90-day review be added as a condition of Womack's appointment, noted the Police Department has been through several "trials and tribulations" over the past two years.
"Some of it's come internally, and some of it's been external, you know, with the police shootings and the floods and things we had no control over," Lamm-Williams said. "But I want everybody to know that we have all put a significant amount of time into making this decision. … I hope that we all come together and are unified moving forward and remember that we're all a team with the same goal."
After the meeting, Lamm-Williams said there has been dissension among the ranks of the Police Department "for some time," adding that she had received several calls — from officers as well as residents — about the matter in recent months.
She declined to elaborate on those concerns or to speculate whether the disagreements stem from the prior police chief's administration or have arisen since Womack took over as interim chief in May.
Lamm-Williams said she asked for the 90-day review to give the council an opportunity to "see what kind of progress has been made in three months, think what changes may need to be made and just see how things are going" before the end of Womack's probationary period.
"Let's see how it goes," she said. "Let's see what he can do in 90 days."