Tension runs high between council, police department
by Rachel Davis
Aug 22, 2013 | 3250 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OAKMAN — Tensions between the council and police department took center stage Monday night at Oakman’s council meeting.

The council questioned Chief Andy Powell’s report that the city will be able to provide 24-hour police coverage starting this Friday.

Powell explained that he and the three full-time and one part-time officer can cover the city around the clock, as long as no one calls in sick or takes a vacation day.

“If we miss one person in a week, they take a vacation, we can’t do it and stay at 40 hours,” Powell said. He said that vacations and conferences have interrupted the schedule over the last few weeks, but it should return to normal this week.

Mayor Pro Tem Chris Harvey questioned if there were two officers on the clock Friday night, before council member Crystal Glover began asserting there were no officers on duty when she drove through on Friday night.

Powell said he and two officers were there working an attempted murder case Friday night that took much of the night.

“It seems to me that we have two or three officers on duty all the time, that’s my issue,” Harvey said.

Glover then made a motion for executive session, although she failed to provide a reason for the proposed session. Mayor Dennis Welch asked for a reason, which Glover responded to with “to discuss the police chief.” Welch then said that executive sessions cannot be called for general business, prompting Glover to say it related to the duties of the police chief, not his good name and character. The duties of an appointed official, such as the police chief, are not covered by executive session laws, so the motion died without a second and no executive session was convened.

Glover then questioned who received phone calls for the department if there wasn’t an officer on duty. Powell responded that the phone is usually rolled to Officer Blake Powell because he lives in the center of town and is the closest in an emergency. Glover responded that the phone should be rolled to Andy Powell because he is a salaried employee, instead of Blake, who is paid hourly.

Council member Rhonda Millwood disagreed, saying she thought it made more sense to call the closest officer.

“If you have a situation, or anything that goes on, I want the closest officer that’s here in the area to come and respond, whether it be salaried, but you don’t realize what kinds of situations you can get into,” Millwood said.

Glover responded that Andy Powell could delegate responsibility to go to the call to another officer, but he should be the one answering the original call. Millwood said that was wasting time, which could be dangerous if someone needed immediate help.

Blake Powell responded to the concerns about him being an hourly employee by saying that many times when he’s called in, it only takes a few minutes to do a report, and he usually doesn’t even clock in.

“That’s not my biggest concern,” Blake Powell told the council. “My biggest concern is who can provide the best service for the town and get there the quickest. Because if you’ve got an active shooter or you’ve got a car wreck or you’ve got something going on or the fire department needs somebody; they need the quickest response time. They don’t need the chief because he’s the highest rank or because he’s salaried, they need the best person who can get there and serve the town and provide protection.”

Harvey expressed appreciation to Blake Powell for volunteering his time in that manner, then questioned whether Powell was clocked in earlier on Monday when one of the police vehicles broke down with him driving it. Blake Powell responded that he was, to which Harvey responded that he had already checked the time cards and Blake Powell was not on the clock at the time.

Blake Powell argued, before leaving the meeting and returning with a time card to show the council.

Andy Powell and Harvey continued to exchange words regarding the city’s liability for an employee who was not on the clock.

The council also voted to put the city’s new police Tahoe to regular patrol, meaning the vehicle would stay at the police department for the officer on duty. One of the other police vehicles is currently out of commission.

Powell asked the council to approve two of the city’s firefighters to be a part of the police reserve program, which was approved. They also discussed and approved sending an officer to escort the football team’s bus for away games.

In other business:

•The council approved the city’s audit for the fiscal year ending in September 2012.

•The council voted against hiring magistrate Joseph Thomas, permanently. He was temporarily appointed by the city’s judge last month and will remain in the position on a temporary basis. The council voted three to two to hire Thomas, but Welch said the appointment required four votes to pass.

Council members Sarah Woods and Marion Constant and Welch voted in favor of the appointment, while council members Rhonda Millwood and Glover voted against. Harvey did not participate in the vote.

The council heard a report from Thomas that he had sorted out the records, accounted for almost all of the funds previously missing from the court system and held the first court date in the city’s municipal court in months.

Welch, who has previously expressed frustration with the court system, confessed he had doubts about Thomas, but had been surprised at the results he had seen so far and no one had been in the magistrate’s office in recent history that did as good a job as Thomas. He said he makes a point to judge employees on nothing but their job performance, and Thomas had impressed him.

Millwood, who voted against appointing Thomas permanently, said it had nothing to do with his job performance but failed to elaborate on why she voted no.