|Troy hiring concerns pit aldermen vs. mayor
|Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 9:29 pm
|By DONNA RYDER
That was the key word Monday night in Troy when several of the aldermen and the mayor had a disagreement as to how hiring should be done in the town.
It all started last month when Mayor Jimmie Hart presided over the board of recently-elected officials. Historically, the Town of Troy meets with its seated board after an election to deal with old business and then vacates all positions before the mayor and newly-elected board are sworn in. The mayor then rehires everyone and business goes on as usual.
This year was different.
This year, Hart stated he was unhappy with the state of the police department and rehired all police officers, including Police Chief James Cleek, on a temporary basis. He told the newly-elected board he thinks the department has “hit a plateau,” where they just simply come to work to be there.
He then appointed aldermen Deanna Chappell, Brad Walton and Ralph Wheatley to a committee and charged them with coming up with recommendations on how to improve the police department.
The board also confirmed the suspension of an officer during the January meeting due to actions “not becoming of an officer,” thus releasing him of his duties.
Not long after that board meeting, Cleek announced he would retire from the position he had held for 15 years. He had been with the department for 24 years, starting his service with the town April 19, 1989. His retirement was effective Jan. 24.
A new police chief and a new officer were to be named Monday, but things did not go as planned.
After several items of business were transacted, Hart presented the board with the name of an officer to whom he had offered a position. The man was to start work after the board confirmed his hiring Monday night.
The mayor said the officer, who currently works for another city outside the county, is an Obion County Central High School graduate, completed the law enforcement academy in 2004 and is married with no children. Hart said he was prepared to hire him on a probationary period starting at $12 per hour. The probationary period is 90 days.
Mrs. Chappell asked what the mayor knew about the man, if references had been called and if his current employer had been contacted. She said she is tired of not knowing who is being hired and does not like coming to a meeting and being expected to confirm a hiring without knowing who else applied.
Hart said he did call two people with one of the departments the man had worked for and who had been listed as references, but did not call his current employer. Alderman Ralph Wheatley said it is common for people not to give their current employer as a reference.
Alderman Lew Solmon said he would rather a police chief be hired first and that person have input on who is hired as officers.
And, here is where the discrepancies come into question.
So, just who is supposed to hire people in the Town of Troy? Mrs. Chappell said there is a conflict between the town’s charter and an ordinance approved by a previous board. The charter states it is the responsibility of the mayor and board of aldermen, but the ordinance states the mayor has hiring responsibilities. Yet, Walton said another ordinance refers to the charter for hiring in the town.
Mrs. Chappell asked if the board has been voted out of hiring responsibilities by the ordinance.
“We need to address this, but not tonight,” Mrs. Chappell said, referring to making it clear who has hiring authority.
Hart said he has authority by the ordinance to appoint employees, who can work for three months on a probationary period, and then be recommended to the board for an “up or down” vote.
Mrs. Chappell said she wants to know more about the people then.
The board agreed to skip the police officer’s position and go further into the agenda to look at the hiring of a police chief.
Hart said six people had applied and he had a name to present to the board. Before he had that opportunity, Mrs. Chappell said she had been elected for the last eight years to represent the people in Troy and what she had been hearing from the people of Troy is they would like Larry Farley to have the opportunity to serve as police chief. She added she has also heard from people outside the city who have confidence Farley can do a good job.
“I would like to offer Larry the position as interim for six months,” she said.
Solmon said Farley may not want it, but Mrs. Chappell said he performed those duties when Cleek could not because of injuries sustained in an accident and Farley ought to be offered the position.
She then asked Hart if Farley had applied and if he had been interviewed. The mayor replied Farley had applied, but he was not interviewed. “I did not have to interview him,” Hart said. “I’m the one who hired him as an officer.”
Mrs. Chappell reiterated she would like to offer Farley the chief’s position on a six-month interim basis with his performance to be reevaluated at that time. The motion was seconded by Walton.
Hart said the ordinance calls for the mayor to make the appointments.
Mrs. Chappell said there is also an ordinance that references hiring from “within” when there is someone who can do the job. She said Farley has the next badge number and the last few times a chief has been named, it has been passed down to someone in the department.
Hart added there is also an ordinance that calls for the probationary period to be 90 days, referencing the six months she included in her motion.
Mrs. Chappell said, “If you make a motion and we don’t agree and you won’t recommend that person, then what do we do.”
Walton said he believes the board members ought to have input on who is hired and if the ordinance in question is followed, they don’t. “The way it reads now, it is whatever Mayor Hart decides.”
Addressing Hart, Mrs. Chappell said, “If you won’t recommend a person, then how can we vote on someone we feel strongly about.”
She said she knows her motion is not what the mayor wants, but that her motion follows the charter.
Hart said he will have to take the ordinance to the Tennessee Municipal League and get an opinion. He then called for the meeting to be adjourned, but the aldermen continued their discussion.
Solmon said it appears the ordinance overrules the charter and they need to find out if the board has a say in hirings.
Walton said looking at the ordinance, the board does not have a say, but looking at the charter they do.
Hart said in his opinion the board can’t do the hiring.
Mrs. Chappell responded, “In my opinion, you don’t want to do it,” referring to hiring Farley as police chief.
“You can’t do it like you are wanting to do it,” Hart said.
Wheatley then called Mrs. Chappell’s motion out of order because her motion is “in conflict with the ordinance.” He said he does not agree with everything the ordinance says, but a change in the ordinance would have to be approved. It would take three readings.
“Until the ordinance is changed, whoever you hire will be it. We have no say,” Mrs. Chappell said, again addressing the mayor, and adding she wants to go back to what the charter states.
Walton made a motion to table the hirings of the police chief and officer until the town hears from the Municipal League. The motion was approved.
In other business, the board:
• Approved expenditures in the parks and recreation fund to have foul poles placed at the Trojan Park ball field, to have a curtain drain installed on the end field and to purchase a new scoreboard. The requests were made by Tim Smith, who oversees the ball program.
He said he had already spoken to officials at OCCHS to build the foul poles and a city official about the curtain drain. He said the drain is needed because it is like a pond between second and third bases when it rains and he is trying to save money by not having to buy so much sand and dirt to dry out the field.
As far as the scoreboard, which has been bid at $5,133 by a Murray, Ky., company, he said his daughter, Allison Baldwin, did the research, and it is the least expensive that could be found.
Mrs. Chappell made a motion for the expenditures, but Hart told her she was out of order because he had not called for a motion. He said he wanted to check on the prices.
She said the board could authorize the expenditures, that Smith had already done the leg work and there was enough money in the fund. The board approved the motion.
Mrs. Chappell told Smith if there is anything else he needs to come to the board. “We appreciate you,” she said, adding his job is an unpaid volunteer position.
Smith said there are 143 children signed up to play, with about 135 of them from Hillcrest.
• Authorized the mayor to apply for a Community Development Block Grant for a new water treatment plant.
• Learned from Mrs. Chappell that Farley was instrumental in compiling a report for the beer board, a first-time requirement by the state.
• Heard a new stop sign had been installed on Polk Street and that the school speed limit signs for OCCHS are faded.
• Received financial statements. There was no discussion.
• Was given copies of photos of the board taken at the January meeting.
Associate Editor Donna Ryder can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.12.13
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