Bunkie mayor adjourns meeting during heated exchange between police chief, alderwoman
City business took a back seat to personal attacks at the Sept. 10 Bunkie City Council meeting, when a heated exchange between Police Chief Scotty Ferguson and Councilwoman Brenda Sampson resulted in Mayor Bruce Coulon gaveling the meeting to a close about mid-way through the agenda, during "department reports."
A special meeting was held Tuesday (Sept. 15) to conclude the agenda -- which included the appointment of a Housing Authority commissioner and resolutions concerning the Bunkie Municipal Airport funding and master plan.
The chain of events at the Sept. 10 meeting began when Sampson once again brought up the issues of establishing a tow truck rotation list and for Ferguson to verify the certifications of police officers.
ONE-COMPANY ROTATION LIST
For some time now the police department has called only one tow company to tow vehicles damaged in accidents. Sampson said that is against state law. Ferguson contended he has the right as an elected police chief to have such a policy.
It has even been alleged that the police department's preferred tow company would be called even if the vehicle owner requested a different tow company.
If true, that is a direct violation of state law (RS 32: 1735) which provides, "When a law enforcement officer determines that a motor vehicle must be towed, the law enforcement officer shall give the owner or operator of the motor vehicle the option to select a licensed towing company to tow his vehicle. If the owner or operator of the motor vehicle is unable to select a licensed towing company, chooses not to select a particular licensed towing company, or an emergency situation requires the immediate removal of the vehicle, the next available licensed towing company on the approved law enforcement rotation list shall be called by the law enforcement officer to tow the vehicle."
If a tow truck does not arrive within 45 minutes, the next company on the rotation list is called, the statute notes.
At the Sept. 10 meeting, Ferguson said he had added one more tow company to the list but was not going to add any other companies operating in the Bunkie area -- again saying he has the discretion to do so as police chief.
Sampson disagreed with Ferguson's interpretation of the law, noting that City Attorney Jim Lee agreed with her in the August meeting that a vehicle owner or driver has the right to select a licensed towing company to tow their vehicle and that the next vehicle on the approved rotation list will be called if they do not have a preference, are unable to make a selection or an emergency situation requires the immediate removal of the vehicle.
Ferguson then angrily accused Sampson of not communicating with him.
"Since you're starting with this, I'm going to let it out now," Ferguson said. "You never come talk to me. The last time you talked to me was when you wrote hot checks. A man tried to collect from you and you didn't want to pay him. I had to go and he wanted to put charges on you to be arrested."
Sampson called the allegations "a purposeful, premeditated lie and a below-the-belt personal attack intended to take away from your habitual professional indiscretions and failings."
She said she was glad Ferguson had finally "shown his true self" and called him "an angry, vindictive, nasty, malicious, spiteful individual with neither the training, ability, demeanor, interpersonal skills nor inclination to work with others."
When the councilwoman said she didin't owe anyone an explanation concerning that NSF check, but would be happy to provide one, Coulon attempted to shut down discussion on the off-agenda topic.
Sampson resisted that effort, saying the mayor had allowed Ferguson to make his disparaging remarks in an open public meeting and she had a right to respond to the false comments in the same open public meeting.
Sampson said her daughter, who was suffering from substance abuse issues, wrote the check in 2016, forging her mother's name. Sampson was not aware of the check until 2019 and immediately "went to the merchant and made it good."
"You know good and well, Scotty, that I didn’t write that check," Sampson continued. "You’re lying, trying to embarrass me, because that’s the only way you know how to operate. I have nothing to hide. This whole thing speaks much more to your character, or lack thereof, than it does mine. Keep talking.”
Sampson said her daughter is doing better now. Sampson said she was willing to talk publicly about that period of her daughter's life because her daughter has publicly shared her own story on Facebook in an attempt to help others in a similar situation.
After more back-and-forth comments from the two officials, Coulon adjourned the meeting.