Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings has been suspended without pay pending termination and Lieutenant Steven Leffew has reportedly been named "Officer in Charge" of the department until the issue with the chief position has been settled.
Jennings says he was called to the mayor's office at city hall Thursday afternoon where he was given the news. Those present were Mayor Taft Hendrixson, Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks, and Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson.
Meeks signed the notice of suspension with the verbal concurrence of the mayor. Hunter Hendrixson was not involved in the decision. The reasons for the suspension were read to Jennings and he was given a written copy.
Jennings' case will come before the city's three man discipline board Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. This board is made up of Mayor Hendrixson, Police Commssioner Meeks, and Secretary-Treasurer Hendrixson.
Mayor Hendrixson says if the discipline board finds that the suspension is unwarranted, it can vote to put Jennings back to work with full pay. If the suspension is determined to be warranted by the three man discipline board, Jennings may make a request in writing to appeal the decision to the entire five member board of aldermen at the next meeting, December 7th. A decision by the city council would apparently be final. Members of the council are Aldermen Steve White, W.J. (Dub) White, Shawn Jacobs, Cecil Burger, and Aaron Meeks.
Jennings, in response to the suspension, said "Mr. Meeks threatened to fire me if I didn't retire and he made good on his threat and fired me."
Jennings added that "nothing in the allegations, even if true, remotely rises to the level of termination. There are mitigating circumstances in some of the allegations and I will provide an explanation for my actions at the appropriate time."
The notice of suspension reads as follows "You (Jennings) are being suspended for the following reason- dereliction of duties/negligence.
1. In the past two years, as Police Chief, you have not developed a comprehensive plan to combat crime problems in the City of Smithville, as evidenced by your admission to the board at the workshop of September 14th, 2009. You have not reached out to other agencies for help in combating these problems.
2. You were given two additional officers by the previous board with your promise that you then would be able to do drug investigations. To date, this has not happened.
3. At the workshop on September 14th, 2009, you did not know how many officers you had employed in the department, as evidenced by the CD of the meeting.
4. You have 4 or 5 officers-including yourself and the investigator-on duty on the day shift. You could have used some of these officers to work drug operations.
5. Your claim that the police department's budget has been cut is not substantiated by the 2008-09 city budget. In fact, there was an increase in the police department's budget over the previous year's budget. Also, your claim that all of your overtime has been cut is not true. You are still having overtime in your department.
6. There has been little progress made toward having a better-trained Police Force in specialized areas.
7. Community relations between your office and the public have deteriorated over the last two years.
8. You have not been a "working chief" out patrolling, issuing traffic tickets, answering calls for service, and making arrests.
9. You have authorized the use of a police vehicle for the transportation of civilians out of the area of authority of the Smithville Police Department.
10. It is the responsibility of all department heads to be available for call out at all times. You advised that you turn off your city cell phone when you leave for the day.
11. You have demonstrated lack of adequate supervision of officers.