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Police chief accused of misconduct rarely seen at work as grand jury looms
PLAQUEMINE - Three months after the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed Plaquemine Police Chief Kenny Payne allegedly asked for sexual favors in exchange to have someone's charges dropped, sources say they rarely see him at the office.
Payne is the target of a grand jury hearing later this month to determine if he'll be criminally charged.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit went looking for Payne Friday. Assistant Chief Stephen Engolio met us in the lobby. We asked when he last saw Payne.
"About a week ago," Engolio responded.
Engolio said he had not been following the stories from WBRZ, uncovering the alleged wrongdoing that now has Payne facing possible charges.
"This is his thing to deal with," Engolio said. "We are not involved. We are out of the loop."
In August, WBRZ exposed that Payne was accused of asking a woman for sexual favors in exchange for having her boyfriend's charges dropped. While inside Payne's office, the woman alleges the police chief crossed the line.
"He made me show him my phone when I first got in there to make sure my phone was off and nothing could be recorded, because he said this could jeopardize not just his job but his whole life," she recalled.
That's when she said Payne took out a sticky note and asked her the unthinkable.
"He said, I know you are willing to do anything to get him out," she said. "He took a sticky note off the lady's desk. It was a big pack, and he wrote 'will you give me a B.J. to get him out of trouble?' He took it and did this and showed it to me."
Last month, Payne's lawyer, Chuck Ward, said his client would be resigning this month to avoid criminal charges. Payne returned our calls Friday saying his lawyer got that all wrong.
"That is not the case, no sir," Payne said. "That was never in my mind to resign. Am I going to retire at some time, yes sir. Is that time decided? No."
Payne was defiant on the phone when asked why he hadn't been in the office recently.
"I am the chief, and I do chief things on a daily basis," Payne said. "No one says I have to sit in that office. I am elected and set my own schedule. When the end of my term comes and the people don't think I've done the job, they have a way to get me out of office, and that's by voting me out."
With a grand jury hearing looming in days, Payne said he'll let the process play out. He called the allegations against him false.
"I've been told by lawyers along the way you can indict a ham sandwich if you'd like," Payne said. "The grand jury is a process where the district attorney, and I'm not specifically speaking of our district attorney, and I'm generalizing here... don't edit it out. The district attorney tells a story, and that story may not have any evidence whatsoever, and he tells a story."
Payne said he's not at work because he's on vacation. Despite his absence, he's still running the department.
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