By Paige Nash
A special meeting was called to order this morning, August 25, for the North Bienville Fire Protection District Board. What was on the agenda? It included inconsistencies of previously made board appointments and the termination of the fire department’s chief, Gary Hathorn.
According to RS 40:1498 of the Louisiana Laws – State Legislature, a board of commissioners shall consist of five members and those members elect a chairman. The previous board has been lacking representation for the municipality of Mt. Lebanon since 1991 due to a misstep in a resolution that was passed when both Mt. Lebanon and the Village of Bryceland were asked to join the North Bienville Fire District (NBFD). In accordance with the Louisiana Laws guidelines, that means the previous board was not necessarily legal.
“Recently, one member was taken off the board back in June and replaced and with that action it brought into question how the members of the North Bienville Fire District were appointed. We got to looking at the legalities of it,” said Bienville Parish Police Jury Secretary Rodney Warren.
He referenced the resolution that passed in 1991. Warren said, “It allowed for two members to be appointed by the parish governing authority and a member of the Town of Gibsland and the Village of Bryceland appointing one, then those four members selecting a chairman.”
According to Warren the exclusion of Mt. Lebanon on the board ultimately alleviated the previous chairman Trevin Scott.
He said, “He is no longer legally appointed to that board.”
The new board now consists of Lizzie “Annette” Moss in the Bryceland seat, Mylan Shepherd in the Gibsland seat, William “Bill” Sims in one of the governing body seats, Jerry Roberson also of a governing body and newly appointed Mary Claire Kettler representing Mt. Lebanon.
That leaves Moss and Shepherd as the only remaining legally appointed members of the previous board, but neither were present at this special called meeting.
With the new board in place, the first order of business was the election of a new chairman.
The newly appointed board member, Kettler, made the motion to appoint Bill Sims and the motion passed unanimously.
With that decision finalized, they made their way to the discussion of personnel, which included the job of Fire Chief Gary Hathorn. According to Warren, Hathorn received a 24-hour notice of the board meeting, but he was not in attendance.
“Due to the inconsistencies of Hathorn we no longer need his services,” said Sims.
And another motion passed unanimously.
With that motion an interim fire chief was appointed – the previous Assistant Chief Antoine Hampton, with the possibility of advertising for the position soon.
“In the meantime, we need Mr. Hathorn’s truck and all NBFD belongings,” said Sims. “We might need help from the sheriff’s department. Whoever the deputy is and maybe one member of the board will go to retrieve the truck and we will let him have his belongings, but we want all NBFD property.”
The board is giving Hathorn until the close of business Monday, August 28, to turn in the chief’s truck and property. They also stated that a board member and deputy would need to be present to escort Hathorn into any fire department locations where he may have personal property that he needs to acquire.
This decision was made following inconsistencies with the fire department’s administration, complaints made to the police jury by parish residents and alleged refusal to properly respond to fires within the district.
Both Hathorn and Hampton were informed about the board’s decisions.
The newly established monthly meeting time for the NBFD board will be the first Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Arcadia Fire Department location, 1934 South Railroad Ave.
As previously mentioned, Hathorn was not in attendance at the meeting, but was available for comment by phone. He said, “I do not think what they are doing is legal. I have some questions about the legalities of this new board and some of them holding dual-office and will be looking further into this matter.”
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