Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings may learn his fate Tuesday morning when the city's three man discipline board rules on whether he should be terminated.
Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks signed the suspension of Jennings without pay, pending termination last Thursday. Mayor Taft Hendrixson, while he did not sign the suspension, said he gave verbal concurrence with it.
The hearing is at 10:00 a.m. in the mayor's office at city hall, but it could be relocated to the upstairs meeting room at city hall if more room is needed to accommodate members of the public who wish to attend.
Concerned citizen Faye Sandosky addressed the mayor and board of aldermen Monday night with questions about the process being followed to suspend and fire Chief Jennings. She asked for an opinion from city attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. as to whether the suspension notice was supposed to be signed by both the police commissioner and mayor to make it legally binding. She also expressed her concern that while this is to be an open hearing under the state's sunshine law, it is to be conducted in the mayor's office, which is small and cannot accommodate a large gathering. Sandosky further complained that the hearing was scheduled at a time when the city attorney could not attend to give legal counsel.
In response, Mayor Hendrixson said "this is an automatic meeting held in accordance with ordinance #419. It's to be held within three days of the suspension. It will be the three man board consisting of myself, the Police Commissioner (Aaron Meeks), and the Secretary-Treasurer (Hunter Hendrixson). It has been posted that this is a public meeting."
"As far as my concurrence, there no where says I have to sign it. I concurred orally. I can substantiate that if need be but there's no where in the ordinance that says I have to sign anything."
"I set this (meeting) for my office. If there is more people there, too many for that office, it will be moved here (upstairs at city hall)."
"I didn't know the city attorney was going to be (unavailable) prior (to scheduling the meeting). I didn't know he was supposed to be there. This is between myself, the police commissioner, and the secretary-treasurer and what it will consist of is we will review the causes again for suspension. If we concur that the suspension is warranted Chief Jennings will be terminated. If we don't concur that the suspension was warranted, he will be reinstated with full benefits. If we concur that it is warranted, he can submit a written notice to me and he and his counsel can appear at the next board meeting (December 7th) to give his causes or why he thinks he should not be suspended."
City attorney Parsley, in response to Sandosky, added "I do not think it (notice of suspension) has to be signed by both Mr. Meeks and the Mayor. They do have to concur. The ordinance says that. Then within 72 hours there has to be a hearing. Unfortunately I have a trial that's been set for here in Smithville at nine o'clock tomorrow (Tuesday). The ordinance doesn't say that I have to be there (at the Jennings hearing). The mayor and Hunter asked if I could be there, but unfortunately I can't be. I don't think it's necessary."
If Jennings is terminated by the three man discipline board tomorrow (Tuesday) he may request in writing, an appeal before the entire five member board of aldermen, where they would hear both sides of the case and make a final ruling on Jennings' termination.
The City of Smithville has an ordinance regulating charitable roadblocks which are often conducted at major intersections to raise money for various causes or needs.
However, members of the board of aldermen, in the interest of public safety, want the city to have stricter enforcement.
No action was taken Monday night, but the aldermen may vote on a revised ordinance at the next meeting, with some changes. Aldermen are concerned for the people who stand in the middle of busy intersections soliciting donations and are fearful that someone could get hurt.
Monday night, they proposed some new restrictions they would like to see in the revised ordinance, including the possibility of limiting any group to not more than two charitable roadblocks per year; requiring all participants to wear protective vests (possibly orange in color); requiring groups to show proof that they are a legitimate non-profit 501C3 or 4 organization; prohibiting solicitors from standing in the road (requiring them instead to stand on the sidewalks near the intersections); establishing a minimum age for solicitors (no one under age 14 could participate in the roadblocks); establishing a four hour time limit for any group to solicit donations at intersections; and to require them to have in their possession a permit, issued to them by the City of Smithville Police Department.
First reading action on the revised ordinance may be considered at the December 7th meeting of the mayor and board of aldermen.
In other business, the board voted to retire the Smithville Police Department's K-9 dog Astro from service once a new dog has been trained and put in service to replace him. Officer Bradley Tatrow made the request Monday night saying the dog has a medical condition as confirmed by a local veterinarian. Tatrow asked that the city allow him to take ownership of Astro and he would, at his own expense, provide the city another trained K-9. He says the new dog is in training now and could be ready for service within two months. The aldermen granted Officer Tatrow's request.
Meanwhile, the aldermen voted to purchase a vermeer brush chipper for $25,250.