Many Community Supporters Rally Around Chief Stufano- Aldermen Fail to Override Mayoral Veto

August 6, 2007
Dwayne Page

Many community supporters of Smithville Police Chief Tom Stufano rallied to his defense during Monday night's meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen

The city board also failed to override a mayoral veto of the council's decision three weeks ago to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson, at the very beginning of the meeting Monday night, called for a vote on the override. A "yes" vote was for the veto to be upheld. A "no" vote was for the veto to be overridden. Aldermen Willie Thomas and Jerry Hutchins' Sr. voted "no" and Aldermen Steve White and Cecil Burger voted "yes". Alderman Tonya Sullivan "passed" saying "I had several concerns. I've worked with Mr (John) Pryor (city attorney) to try to come to some conclusion on that. I'm still a little undecided so I'm going to pass. I still have some concerns."

On Monday, July 16th, the Smithville Aldermen, on a 3 to 1 vote, decided to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct lodged against him by Roy Ray.

Ray has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against Chief Stufano, the Smithville Police Department, and the City of Smithville claiming he suffered injuries and that his civil and constitutional rights were violated during a misdemeanor traffic stop in February.

In a letter to City Attorney Pryor dated Wednesday, July 18th , Mayor Hendrixson gave notice that he was casting a veto to block the suspension of Chief Stufano. In it he wrote " I believe the action taken by this Board could be potential exposure to future litigation and I think any action of administrative leave for Chief Stufano is premature."

The aldermen were also made aware of the Mayor's veto.

Meanwhile, in a letter to city attorney Pryor, District Attorney General Pro Tempore Anthony (Tony) Craighead wrote last week that "The District Attorney's Office will not be requesting a TBI investigation" into the Stufano/Ray matter.

Near the end of the city board meeting Monday night, Barbara Ward presented a petition, signed by 225 people, in support of Chief Stufano.

Ward, reading from the petition, said "We, the undersigned, are residents of Smithville-DeKalb County and are signing in support of Chief Tom Stufano. We feel he has made a positive impact on our city. Along with his officers, Chief Stufano has made Smithville a safer place for tax paying citizens and a dangerous place for criminals. We're not willing to sacrifice the progress that has been made against crime in the name of politics. We feel that Chief Stufano has brought credibility, integrity, and professionalism to the Smithville Police Department."

Many who attended the meeting showed their support for Chief Stufano with thunderous applause and rousing cheers as Ward concluded her remarks and presented the petition to the mayor and aldermen.

The crowd broke out into applause and cheers again after Smithville Police Investigator Bill Elliott's remarks in support of Chief Stufano. " I'm just here to state my mind. I look out and I see a lot of people out here, most of which I've spoken to and most of which support myself, the rest of the department I work with, and my boss, the Chief."

"About three weeks ago, a decision was made I feel was very uninformed. There wasn't any facts to it and the board, I feel, made a decision without knowing what they were trying to decide. I would ask the board of aldermen here to look out and see these people. They're here to support us and you're here to represent them. I would ask the next time a decision like this is made to take some time, think about the decision you have to make, and think about the people you represent. They stand behind us. I would hope you would take the time to get to know me and the rest of the department before making a decision on my career."

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