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Council: no insurance, no police department

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SORRENTO - Mayor Mike Lambert says it's up to an insurance company to accept the risk of taking on the Sorrento Police Department.

The town has two weeks to find viable insurance to back its police department before the current insurance will lapse the morning of Nov. 19.

Assistant Chief of Police Ricky Smith says he submitted paperwork to six different insurance providers Monday.  A plan must be approved by Nov. 19 to keep the officers out on the street. He said if there's no insurance, there's no department.

"We're not going to put our officers personally liable for anything that could happen on the street," Smith said at a town meeting Tuesday night.

At the council meeting, Smith said it took the city two weeks to get the paperwork in order after there was confusion over who could report claims.

"The police department is not the head of the policy," he said. He added the town is in charge of the policy and the mayor needed to get the information.

Mayor Lambert says in the past week, he's done some work of his own and received one rejection from an insurance company hours before the meeting.

According to the city attorney, Sorrento's budget is on target, and in the budget there's money to sustain the police department.

"It's going to be very expensive if we find insurance," Lambert added with an emphasis on "if."

Lambert says it's up to Chief Earl Theriot, who is currently on medical leave, to turn the reins over to Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley if the insurance does lapse and the town needs help patrolling.

"I believe the sheriff will help us, for the short term," said Lambert. "For long term, we would need to negotiate a contract with the sheriff to do long-term patrol work until we can find an insurance carrier that's willing to carry us."

The council is split on turning the duties over to the sheriff.

"I do not think it is right to put the sheriff in that type of position, when we're financially stable," said Councilman Randy Anny.

Sorrento is looking at a backup plan of shopping for a new insurance carrier for the entire town operation, instead of just the police department.

The council will discuss options with the insurance company this week.




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