Former police chief presents evidence to Kingston council
by Matt Shinall
Aug 16, 2011 | 2835 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A special called meeting in Kingston gave air to grievances by former Police Chief Walter Harrell after his demotion and pay cut by Mayor Dexter Jones last month.

Jones made the call to demote Harrell last month without council consent or approval as his authority as mayor allows, but was not present at Monday's called meeting under the impression the meeting would be illegal. Jones approved the meeting at last week's regular meeting before calling off the hearing during the week. City Attorney Peter Olson, however, confirmed Monday that a majority of three councilmen agreed to continue with the meeting in accordance to procedure.

Without the mayor present, Harrell and his attorney James Blalock presented evidence to the council defending Harrell's abilities and arguing the mayor's decision as unfounded. Harrell made it clear that he had previously requested, in writing before his demotion, a hearing in front of the council to address the micromanagement of the police department by Jones ,including how to handle investigations and creating department work schedules.

"When I took this job, I didn't come to Dexter Jones looking for a job. I had a job. He came to me, he wanted me as a consultant. He called me several times, he came over to my house to talk to me about the position. He told me if I took it, I would be chief, I would have the responsibilities of the police department, that it would be my job to run the police department as needed," Harrell said. "I do appreciate Mayor Jones giving me the opportunity of the position, but I didn't know there'd be strings attached."

Monday's hearing was an appeal to the council by Harrell and Blalock to overrule the mayor's decision reinstating Harrell as police chief and compensating for back pay for the time of his demotion as well as relinquishing departmental control back to the chief.

"Basically, what the chief's asking for is to be reinstated in the position of chief of police of the city of Kingston, that he be able to run the department as the chief should, that he not have any interference about running his department," Blalock said. "[Police chiefs] have to answer to the mayor and the city council but they still have to run their department, they still set out their schedules. The mayor is not a police officer, he's the mayor."

After presenting a stack of documents as evidence to each councilman and verbally defending each reason for the decision made by Jones as listed in his letter of notice, Harrell and Blalock left it to the city council for discussion.

Acting in his position as Mayor Pro-Tem, Chuck Wise