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Collins Tapped for Chief

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November 19, 2012 by wcobserver

Council Approves Interim Police Chief

WC Observer Staff Report

West Fork has a new Chief of Police. Well, at least for now. Officer John Collins’ appointment by Mayor HIme as interim chief was approved at the November meeting  by the city council 6-2 (Rossetti and Shafer against). The vote came after some contentious verbal exchanges between the mayor and Mike Nelson who is the current chief until his retirement becomes effective at the end of this year. Nelson is also the alderman-elect for Ward 4.

In announcing her choice for interim chief, Mayor Hime explained her reasoning, her prior communication with Collins and how she will use the performance evaluation. She said she had received recommendations for numerous law enforcement officials including Washington County Sherriff Tim Helder and Fayetteville Police Chief Greg Tabor, both West Fork residents.

Mike Nelson addressed the mayor expressing his disappointment with several aspects of the procedure saying, ”You’re taking power away from this council, it’s not right, I’m disappointed the way you handled it.”

He wondered why, neither he nor the Police Commission, which is mentioned in the Municipal Code, did not play a part in the selection process. The mayor replied that state law requires that the mayor appoint the chief of police. Her assertion was confirmed by City Attorney Kieklak who cited the relevant state statue. The code also requires the police commission to meet twice annually and make budget recommendations which they have never done.

 The mayor appoints and removes department heads but not employees which was another of Nelsons’ concerns. He accused the mayor of wanting to downsize the department. She repeated that she cannot do that; only the department head has that authority.  Nelson also expressed concern with Collin’s salary saying, “I‘m disappointed in this, the starting salary is less than what the third man in water department makes.”  Nelson makes $53,000; Collins will start at $42,000.

Chief Nelson continued expressing his dissatisfaction with the mayor and selection process until at one point Mayor Hime said, “Listen or leave.”

Councilmembers Rossetti  and Wright expressed concern about the whereabouts of the Police Policy document that was being developed by Nelson and attorney Kieklak who said he would have it at the next meeting. The policy document does not include a job description, Hime said.  

The city’s auditor, Jim Kennedy reported to the council that the audits for 2008 and 2009 have been completed.  He said he found no violations of laws but mentioned that the “segregation of duties” problem still exists.  Some minor concerns were with police chief reimbursing himself and parks concession sales.  A failure by Kennedy to complete the 2010 budget by October 31, this year will prohibit the city from using the free audit available from the state legislative committee.  The cost of having Kennedy do the audits is $7,000 per year.  Audits for 2010, 2011, and 2012 will be completed by October 31, 2013.

In other business, the council approved the 2013 budget as well as the animal control ordinance. A request from the Planning Commission regarding Home Occupations was discussed. Kieklak suggested and the council approved adding the phrase “peaceful enjoyment” to that document.

Fire Chief McCorkle addressed the council during the Public Forum portion of the meeting requesting a change in line items on the budget which would not require a budget adjustment. He also stated that the Fire Department needs more money.

Meeting adjourned at 7:50 p.m.

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