Cotton Valley fire board appoints interim chief while embattled chief still serves
Ending a series of procedural difficulties, Cotton Valley Fire Protection District 8 board flexed their collective muscle by appointing an interim fire chief regardless of the fact the existing chief has not gone away ... at least not yet.
Michael Pyles, who was FPD 8 fire chief prior to existing chief Dennis Meshell, was the board's choice. Pyles is the son of FPD 8 board police jury appointee Robert Pyles who resigned prior to the meeting citing "unforeseen work schedules," avoiding falling afoul of state laws against nepotism.
After the interim appointment, Meshell asked Webster Parish assistant District Attorney Patrick Jackson who had what power in the situation.
"The board has the authority to appoint another chief," Jackson said. "So the interim chief will have the same authority that you have ... although that presents command confusion by having two chiefs, it's certainly lawful.
"Pyles has the same authority you have. Your authority hasn't been removed," he said.
No spoken reason was given why the board chose to appoint a second chief alongside Meshell; however business on the agenda addressing the "professional competence" of Meshell and assistant chief Adam Hurley had to be delayed due to a procedural error.
State law requires at least 24 hours written notice when the professional competence of a person is to be brought before a board, and FPD 8 board could provide no evidence that proper notice had been given in time.
An agenda had been posted on the fire station door Thursday at 10:30 a.m. or noon depending on which of the two times board chair Herman Coleman mentioned it. Meshell and Hurley said they did not see the agenda before the Thursday 4 p.m. deadline.
Hurley said he had been out of the station most of Thursday.
"Yesterday, according to my daily log that I keep, I was not back at this station until 17:17," Hurley said. "At which time I saw the notice at 5:17 p.m. yesterday."
Meshell said he had not been into the station for around a week.
"I was not apprised," Meshell said. "Adam told me around 5 o'clock yesterday evening."
A new meeting was quickly scheduled for Tuesday at 4 p.m. and Jackson informed Meshell and Hurley that they were now given notice of their inclusion in the new meeting.
Meshell and Hurley were arrested by Webster Parish Sheriff's Office on March 23 and charged with felony theft, malfeasance in office and injuring public records. The pair is accused of operating illegal bank accounts using public funds out of the eyes of the board and legislative auditors.
Donald Ray Perkins was sworn in after being appointed by Cotton Valley's board of aldermen on last Tuesday. Perkins replaced Coleman who is now board chair. Pyles' seat remains open.
An improved purchase order system will be put into place to ensure proper spending practices. WPSO is still in possession of the board's financial information.
A surplus 1-ton Ford truck was given to the Cullen fire department.
First responders and CPR training will be attended and certifications will be renewed.
All radios are required to be narrow band by June 30. Six existing radios will be replaced to prepare for the upgrade.
A 911 repeater will be installed to provide better coverage for the FPD.