12th District Court rules Hessmer does not owe Verizon bill

No valid contract existed for police department cell phone service

One dispute between Hessmer’s police chief and its mayor and aldermen has been put to rest. However, there are still a few issues left to resolve.

District Judge William Bennett ruled on Sept. 9 that the Village of Hessmer did not owe approximately $3,000 to Verizon for cell phone service to the municipality’s police department.

In his ruling, Bennett said no valid contract existed between the Village of Hessmer and Verizon and no money is owed the company for cell phone service it provided to the Hessmer Police Department because the Village Council never approved the agreement and the mayor did not sign it, as is required by state law.

Police Chief Kenneth Smith had argued the state law referenced in that argument does not apply to an elected police chief, whom he said has legal authority to select the cell phone provider for his department.

Town Attorney Brandon Scott said Verizon’s attorneys did not appear at the Sept. 9 hearing. He said Verizon conceded last month the municipality was not responsible for the bill.

Smith said the company chose not to incur legal costs for a small bill.

Scott said Verizon cannot seek payment from the Police Department because it is also an agency of the municipality and cannot obligate village funds without council approval.

OTHER CONFLICTS

Other conflicts include a lawsuit by former police officer Jordon Santoyo alleging he was unlawfully fired by the council. Franks has alleged that Smith “sicced” his former patrolman on the village due to his ill-feelings toward the mayor and aldermen.

There will be a hearing on that suit on Oct. 4 in District Judge Kerry Spruill’s court.

Perhaps the biggest conflict -- the consideration of presenting a proposition to change the police chief position to an appointed official instead of an elected one -- is still under consideration.

The council adopted an ordinance on April 1 that authorizes the village to put the issue to a vote of the people.

If approved, the change would not go into effect until the current elected term ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

The deadline for submitting propositions for the Nov. 16 election is Sept. 23.

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