Investigative Unit: Arrested officer still enforcing laws
PLAQUEMINE- Tonight, there are serious questions about why Brusly Police Chief Jamie Whaley is enforcing laws in another municipality.
Whaley was arrested on charges of felony theft and malfeasance in January, after confessing to an FBI agent that he fraudulently used the town's credit card to gas up his personal truck and boat.
Currently, Whaley is a part time patrol officer for Plaquemine Police. Chief Orian Gulotta said he's friends with Whaley and has no problem with his felony arrest, but Gulotta was vague in his explanation as to why he allows an accused thief to enforce laws in his city.
That doesn't sit well with resident Lucille Warner.
"I think it's a conflict of interest, and I disagree with it wholeheartedly," Warner said.
According to an arrest affidvait, federal authorities got surveillance footage showing Whaley fueling up his truck and boat at a gas station near the Brusly Police Headquarters. When investigators asked Whaley about it, the affidavit said Whaley denied doing so because it was illegal. The affidavit said when authorities confronted him with receipts and video from the gas station, Whaley admitted to doing so.
Whaley also admitted to Brusly residents the $1,122.75 in charges accurately reflected his illegal use of the card.
"I apologize to them," Whaley told News 2. "Sorry for any embarrassment this may have caused."
The police chief in Brusly is an elected position, so Whaley doesn't have to step down unless he's convicted. In Plaquemine, though, it's Chief Gulotta's discretion to have Whaley on his payroll.
"He handles burglaries, thefts homicide or whatever," Gulotta said. "He also does routine patrol along with all my detectives."
Time sheets obtained by the News 2 Investigative Unit show Whaley continues to enforce laws in Plaquemine even after his felony arrest. For example, one time sheet shows he clocked 66 hours between Jan. 21 and Feb. 3 of this year.
The time sheets show Brusly Police Chief Jamie Whaley typically works 32 hours per week in Plaquemine. Because he's an elected chief, he has no set hours and can show up to work in Brusly whenever he wants.
Gulotta admitted that if one of his full-time officers was accused of theft, they'd be put on leave while an investigation was conducted. He denied there's a conflict of interest in his decision to allow the accused thief to patrol his streets.
"It hasn't been an issue for my department," Gulotta said. "In the United States you're considered innocent until proven guilty. He hasn't been proven anything yet. Now if he is convicted of a felony, then it will make a difference. Until then, he will remain here."
That decision upset some residents in Plaquemine.
"They made an oath to uphold the law, and if they're breaking the law, they're not doing what they stand for," Warner said.
"I don't think he should be patrolling the sterets," Plaquemine resident Debbie said. "If he confessed then he shouldn't be working."
When we asked Whaley about his arrest this year, he confessed to the crime on camera. We asked if he would arrest anyone if he saw them stealing something.
"Yes, I would," Whaley said. "I took an oath to uphold the laws of south Louisiana and the town of Brusly."
"Even though you're accused of doing the same thing," Nakamoto responded.
"Correct, accused," Whaley said. "The key word is accused."
"But you just admitted to us that you did it," Nakamoto said.
"Correct," Whaley said.
Despite that confession, Gulotta determined on his own that Whaley did nothing wrong, even though his case hasn't even gone to court.
"After I looked at it, I determined it would end up as a civil case to start with," Gulotta said.
It's that attitude that raises questions as to whether a "friendship" between the Brusly Police Chief and the Plaquemine Police Chief allows Whaley to hold others accountable for the same laws he's accused of breaking.
"What do you say to the people who have concerns that someone arrested on felony charges is enforcing laws in this town," Nakamoto asked Gulotta.
"I say when he has his day in court, I'll make my decision," Gulotta said.
Whaley is scheduled to appear in court for the criminal charges on May 6. The District Attorney's Office told News 2 it will be prosecuted as a criminal matter on both the felony theft and malfeasance charges.
The FBI and State Inspector General initially conducted the investigation.