During its Nov. 14 work session, the Elberta Town Council discussed a plan about how to address the ongoing medical situation of Elberta Police Chief Stan DeVane.
DeVane was injured in a horseback riding accident in July while on vacation, but since then has suffered as bacterial infection that affects his spine and has paralyzed him.
DeVane’s wife Debbie told the council that Stan was making significant progress at his rehabilitation facility in Jacksonville, Florida.
“That infection in his spinal cord was eating the spinal cord up, but thankfully it is starting to regenerate now,” Debbie said. “He is moving his legs and doing all kinds of exercises. We think he will be back the first part of December to work, we’re hoping.”
She said her husband was greatly looking forward to returning to work and serving the Elberta community.
“Stan has been here for five years now, and he would love to put in another four to five years here,” Debbie said.
Mayor Jim Hamby said even though DeVane has been in the hospital and other healthcare facilities for several months, he has been involved in the town’s police department operations on an almost daily basis.
“Stan has continued to interact with Assistant Chief Pelfrey on a regular basis, helping to compile reports, working on the budget and doing things as we’ve needed them,” Hamby said.
Hamby added that it had been 16 weeks that the town had continued to pay DeVane his full salary without him being able to come into the office.
Hamby’s suggestion for the town’s next action was to vote to activate DeVane’s six weeks of accrued sick leave, which would extend until January 2018 and would give DeVane time to be able to get back in the office.
Some council members questioned why DeVane’s sick leave had not already begun.
“Shouldn’t his sick leave have started after the annual leave was exhausted?” Councilwoman Alma Doege questioned. “What is the state ruling on that?”
Councilwoman Vicky Norris agreed with Doege.
“I’m Team Chief if he can do that, but legally his sick time was supposed to go out first right after his vacation time went out,” Norris said.
Hamby said while he hoped DeVane would be able to return during that six week time period, he was uncertain if that would be the case - adding that if DeVane was still unable to return, the town could consider asking DeVane to go out on disability or possibly putting him on unpaid leave for up to a year in order to hold the position for his possible return.
“There are just a lot of options for what to do right now, and we have to consider what is the best decision for the town,” Hamby said.
Many Elberta residents turned out in support of DeVane and asked town leaders to continue to support their chief.
“Does this town want to be known as the one who failed to support their police chief in his time of need?” one resident exclaimed.
The council takes action on this item at its Nov. 21 meeting.