In a fractious first meeting of the new Franklinton Mayor and Board of Aldermen held Tuesday (January 12, 2021) evening, Franklinton Police Chief Justin Brown was replaced by Olander Smith. The decision was made by Mayor Greg Route. It was opposed by three of the five Aldermen: Seth Descant, Heath Spears, and Darwin Sharp.
Route maintained that he has the authority to name his Administrative Staff, a position supported by James Knight who was also appointed by Route at the meeting. Administrative Staff positions include Municipal Clerk, Chief of Police, Town Attorney, Code Enforcement Officer, and Court Magistrate. Descant, Spears, and Sharp contend that the Mayor's appointments must have confirmation by the Board of Aldermen and they were armed with court decisions, an Attorney General Opinion, a state statute, and charter provisions they said supported their position. The Aldermen voted to request an Attorney General Opinion to help resolve the dispute and the Mayor was asked to delay the appointments until the Opinion was received. Mayor Route declined to delay his appointments. Following his appointment as Police Chief, the Oath of Office was administered to Olander Smith by District Judge Ellen Creel. Later in the meeting, Justin Brown delivered some strongly-worded comments regarding his removal as Police Chief.
In the end, the following appointments were made: Ellen Wascom as Municipal Clerk, Wilburn Magee as Code Enforcement Officer, Olander Smith as Police Chief, James Knight as Town Attorney, and Dan Foil as Court Magistrate. Appointments were also made to the Planning Commission. Jamie McCullen, Angela McVea, and Clay Carter were appointed to join Ella Rose Bickham, Jackie Tate, Scott Reedy, and Thomas Richardson on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Patrice Crain was elected by the Board to be Mayor Pro-Tem.
The dispute about the Police Chief issue and other appointments was not the only dispute during the meeting. Frankie Crosby addressed the Mayor and Aldermen and called on Aldermen Descant and Spears to resign. Crosby charged Descant with not being a resident of Franklinton for three years prior to qualification. Crosby charged Spears with not residing in Franklinton. The confrontation between Spears and Crosby was particularly highly-charged.
Routine matters on the Agenda were addressed. Of note was the introduction of an Ordinance to rename Section Line Road to Dr. James Stafford Drive. The Ordinance will be voted on at the next meeting and Dr. Stafford's resume will be heard at that time. Dr. Stafford was a well-known educator in Washington Parish and served in positions elsewhere in the State of Louisiana.