Sorrento Town Council approves $1.14M budget, but stymied in defunding parts of police dept.

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SORRENTO, Louisiana — A divided Sorrento Town Council narrowly approved a $1.14 million budget for the new 2014-15 fiscal year Tuesday night, but was stymied in a bid to defund parts of the town's troubled police Department.

The attempt to leave the department with no provisions to pay for an officer, a police chief or other expenses failed over public notice concerns raised by Councilman Randy Anny and shared by Town Attorney Matthew Percy.

Had the council majority succeeded, The Advocate reports ( ) the department could not have funded any officers four months ahead of a possible Nov. 4 ballot measure asking Sorrento voters to abolish the department and the town's elected chief.

Gov. Bobby Jindal signed Senate Bill 601 into law last week allowing the council to call for that election. The chief's office has been vacant since the former chief, Earl Theriot Jr., resigned in February shortly before pleading guilty to lying to an FBI agent.

Councilwoman Patti Poche proposed an amendment shifting $132,000 from the department's proposed $367,350 budget to pay for Sheriff's Office protection from July 1 to Nov. 30.

The amendment also would have moved the chief's salary for five months to town drainage funds, zeroed out line items for a police officer and part-time clerk salaries and left about $143,000 after other reductions.

Mayor Mike Lambert, who has advocated to end the department and the elected chief in favor of Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office protection, said after the meeting that the proposed budget amendment will be brought up again, likely coming up for a final vote sometime in mid to late July.

He disputed Anny's charge the amendment was a "sneaky" move, chalking it up to his and the council's inexperience with the budget process.

Information from: The Advocate,

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