Chief selection process get put on backburner

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By Natasha LaFayette

Six sealed white envelopes sat on a table at the start of the LaFollette City Council workshop Monday. These envelopes contained the top three choices of the mayor, city administrator and the four councilmen for the open police chief position.

When the council reached discussion on the applicants, little was said except to determine a way to read the mysterious contents of each envelope.

Councilman Joe Bolinger, who had suggested the use of the envelopes, stated a committee of Mayor Mike Stanfield, Councilman Wayne Kitts and City Administrator David Young should open the envelopes at a later date and determine the finalists.

“The objective is to narrow it down to two,” said Bolinger.

The six applicants for the police chief position were each interviewed last week. From those interviews and applications, the council seemed confident as they quickly marked their choices on the selection document.

However, on Wednesday morning it appeared the selection committee had alternative items to discuss when several allegations were levied.

Stanfield was handed the six sealed envelopes by City Recorder Linda White and he immediately asked why six envelopes were included, saying he was unaware that City Administrator David Young had put in his suggestions.

Everyone except for Councilman Bob Fannon chose the finalist at the workshop on Monday. Fannon had previously submitted his envelope.

Stanfield questioned if Young should have included his opinion in the poll.

While the usual protocol of hiring is based on the city administrator’s recommendation, the hiring of a police chief has taken an unprecedented path of public interviews and open meetings to discuss applicants.

Young told Stanfield the city administrator is entitled to a recommendation in the selection process. Yet Stanfield replied that Young could recommend all he wanted and the council did not have to decide based on his opinion.

Though the Press was made aware of a Wednesday morning meeting to determine the finalist, Kitts and Young stated they were never told an exact date and time of the meeting.

At the mention of the confusion, Stanfield quickly decided to postpone the selection of a police chief until the regular meeting on May 5.

After Stanfield decided a new meeting time, White suddenly began to discuss a grievance with Young. She handed Young a memo and began stating she was doing her job the best she could.

Young stood from the table and simply told White the issue was a personnel problem and should not be handled in the open forum.

She continued to allege Young’s mistreatment of her, to which Young stated White was acting in an insubordinate manner and could face a suspension.

“I am doing my job,” said White with her arms raised in the air, her voice rising in the almost empty room.

Young left the council room at this point. White then turned to address Kitts, saying he was unaware of the situation and that she was doing her job.

Kitts appeared shocked by White’s emotional display. He told both White and Stanfield the issues being addressed were of a personal nature and did not need to be pursued further. White persisted to attempt prove herself to Kitts saying he was unaware of what was happening in the city offices.

“I can tell this is personal,” said Kitts as he attempted to leave the council room.

Stanfield replied the issues were not personal and would be addressed at the coming meeting in the form of a grievance.

White’s grievances with Young have been pushed to the side for several months, but those issues will be made public in the upcoming open meeting.

The charter states personnel issues should be handled with the immediate supervisor.

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