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Citizen questions firing of police officer

By Staff | Apr 9, 2014

Paden City Resident Zoa Little appeared at the Paden City council meeting on Monday, to question why the city terminated the employment of one of its police officers.

Little said she wanted to know who does the hiring when a cop is hired for the town, she asked if it was the council or several people or a team decision. Mayor John Hopkins answered it is the council.

Little then asked, “When a cop is fired who makes that decision?” Mayor Hopkins then said it depends on the circumstance.

Little said she came down to voice her opinion because “I really feel strongly about this, so I just want to say that there was a cop hired in August or September and in November. I know he missed his academy class and it was his fault, but he still had one year to do it. We all know we have seen cops come into this town and stay that long.”

She said this officer did what he had to do and he was a good officer. She also said it was her understanding that a doctor had filled out his paperwork incorrectly and that is why he was dismissed.

“Correct or incorrect?” Mayor Hopkins said, “I don’t know anything about a doctor filling out a paper incorrectly.”

Little said she was just trying to understand the situation because this officer had done many good things in the community. She said he had helped a lady who was down on her luck and was caught shoplifting food and necessities for her baby. He had also helped her family during a time of grief when her nephew was sent to prison. She said he helped her understand why and he stood there with them through their tears. “He helped us understand while we cried. And now we write our nephew and tell him the things the officer told us and and we miss him and it is helping him to understand.”

She also said the officer stopped her child late at night and said, “What are you doing out?” He asked that women why are you stealing, he asked my nephew what is your problem?” She said he asked many times why without ever casting an opinion. She said the officer in question always said good things about this council,Chief Mike Kelly, and the mayor. “And God knows we have heard a bunch of crap about everyone on council because everyone’s got an opinion, but not one time did I ever hear him say anything wrong about anyone, never heard him put anybody down. And I just feel like he was let go, like that, and he wasn’t given a chance.”

Little said her niece was harassed at school and the officer went to the school and talked to the boys involved and it stopped. She said he was very pro-active in what he does, mentioning he goes to the local sporting events and supports the teams and players. She said, “I just feel he was a wonderful, wonderful person to have in this town and to let him go, I don’t feel was the right decision.” She said she would appreciate everyone backing her on this and just to bring him back. “Give him back his job, is that possible?” she asked.

Mayor Hopkins said it was not. He explained that he and the chief were both disappointed with the way the situation worked out because they had really tried to bring him in, but it just didn’t work out. “I can’t get into the particulars of it,” said Hopkins. He told Little everything she said about him is true, but there are other circumstances. “We just felt for all involved it was the best thing at this time,” said Hopkins.

Little asked if it was ever going to be made public as to the reason for the dismissal and Hopkins told her he hoped it was never made public because it wouldn’t be fair to the officer involved. Little said she felt that she and everyone else should have a right to know because she pays $100 per month to the city and part of that goes to pay the wages. She said she’s not saying it needs to be made public, but “I do think that we vote council members in. You guys aren’t here by mistake. You are here because we voted you in and Mayor, you are here because we voted you in.”

She then said she believes the people will look at this when voting time comes.

Finally, Little said she was glad when Chief Kelly came here because he is a wonderful guy, very easy to get along with. She said she was really glad he and the other officer team up and if there is any way that he can be brought back or any,way this can be fixed, she’d like to see it.

Mayor Hopkins said, “I don’t think so. No, we are disappointed it didn’t work out.”

The mayor then moved the meeting to other topics.

Jack Cox then asked to speak, He said he wanted it to go on record that he was against any rate increase. He mentioned being at a prior meeting where council mentioned the town needed to keep an eye on its spending. He said he was looking at the budget and it looks like the city was going to be overspending by some $50,000. He said he hated to keep doing it, but anytime the city wants to raise his rates he is going to oppose it.

The council approved the payment of bills.

Josh Billiter was approved to attend the Chief Water Operators class on May 6.

Discussion was held on the proposed sewer rate increase and the proposed deposits. It was decided by council that the rate increase should be in $6 increments-$6 one year and $6 the following year. Council approved a motion to that affect.

Under the heading of streets, Mayor Hopkins said he had tried to get in touch with the contractor for street repairs but hadn’t been able to reach him. He would keep trying.

In the police report council heard the second reading of the ordinance amendment establishing salary and wage rates for certified part-time police officers. The change would increase the wages from $11 per hour to $13.50 per hour. The motion passed unanimously.

Speaking for the Park and Pool Commission, Councilman Dan Probst said the ball fields were in good shape and he wanted to thank everyone who helped work on the fields and the dugouts and wanted them to know the Park and Pool Commission really appreciates it. He also wanted to thank those who are working to get the swimming pool ready.

Tom Trader wanted to thank those who have given to the swimming pool fund. It was mentioned that there has been $2,250 donated so far.

Probst added that there are seven campers in the campground and it looks like they will be getting more.

Councilman Larry Potts reported that the Paden City Development Authority still has a leak in the roof of the old Middle School cafeteria and he is not sure yet what the solution will be.

Under new business, Mayor Hopkins proclaimed “Poppy Days” to be held on May 2 and 3. Council approved it unanimously.

The mayor also read a proclamation by the Daughters of the American Revolution to recognize the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.

Mayor Hopkins announced the drawing for position on the ballot for the June 5 election will be held April 14, at 9 a.m. in the recorder’s office.

Bids were opened for the Dodge Durango and the Ford Ranger Truck. The Durango sold for $700 and the Ford Truck sold for $1,526. Both bids were approved unanimously by council.

Council approved Little League Tag Day for April 12, with the rain day set for April 19. The little league parade will be held on April 16.

Council went into executive session to discuss personnel matters.

Upon reconvening council approved the hiring of two full-time maintenance workers.