The gist: Mayor-President Josh Guillory says he will start a nationwide search for a new police chief in the next 30 days and confirmed for the first time plans to eliminate Deputy Chief Reggie Thomas’s position.
Chief Toby Aguillard was pushed out. Guillory tried to oust Aguillard during his transition into office, but ended up striking a $70,000 settlement with him after the chief threatened to take the fight to the Lafayette Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board. In a KPEL interview, Guillory acknowledged the role Sheriff Mark Garber’s soured relationship with the chief played in his decision to remove Aguillard.
The deputy chief position — created by the Robideaux administration in 2016 specifically for Thomas because he lacked the education qualifications (a bachelor’s degree) to serve as chief — is being eliminated, Guillory confirmed in a Friday interview with The Current. Thomas, who had been running the day-to-day operations with Aguillard the public face, was passed over as interim chief for a lower ranking officer when Guillory named Lt. Scott Morgan to the post the day he took office.
“He will be when you write it,” Guillory responded when asked if Thomas had been made aware that his position is being axed. The city council must approve elimination of the post; Guillory says the matter will go to a council vote during the budgetary process this spring or possibly before as part of an overall request to restructure the department.
The Current reported early last month that Thomas’s position was likely on the chopping block, but Guillory says he’d only made the final decision about a week before our interview. “It’s my understanding he’s retirement eligible,” Guillory said, adding that he hopes Thomas retires or decides to go back to his previous position. Elimination of his current job, and resulting rank, would drop Thomas two ranks — to captain with a salary cut of about $18,000 a year.
Guillory says the position would be redundant in his restructuring. “He’s not going to be a figurehead puppet,” the mayor said of the new chief he plans to hire. “He’s going to be the chief of police with full authority of the chief of police.”
The mayor says it’s “nothing personal at all.” He believes the department’s mission can be completed without the deputy chief position.
Thomas is not expected to go quietly. In January he said he wouldn’t accept a demotion, the local NAACP chapter expressed support for him, and he vowed to seek the chief’s position. “He’s welcome to apply,” Guillory said.