While Mayor Jimmy Poss has agreed to grant Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger the opportunity to bring his case before the Board of Aldermen concerning his recent termination, there is some disagreement on when to conduct the hearing.
While city officials had planned to hold the hearing during daytime hours, that idea is not supported by Caplinger’s attorney, and least one Alderman. The hearing was originally set for 10 a.m. on April 10 at city hall, but in a letter to City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. Sarah Cripps, said she and her co-counsel Brandon Cox, Caplinger’s representatives, were otherwise engaged at that time, and suggested moving the time to April 24.
Caplinger’s attorneys also suggest that the hearing has been scheduled during the day so the chief’s supporters will not be able to attend. In her letter to Parsley, Cripps said: "You informed me that Mr. Caplinger's due process hearing will not be conducted at the city council's regularly scheduled meeting, but instead will occur at a "special meeting" held in the morning hours. In view of the demonstration of such strong public support in favor of Chief Caplinger's retention, I am not at all surprised that the City of Smithville has taken the decision to conduct the due process termination hearing "in the morning hours" as to avoid the penetrating and unremitting gaze of the public. In this regard, Chief Caplinger again respectfully requests that he be afforded a hearing before the three person board or commission as required by Smithville City Code Section 4-205(7) prior to conducting a hearing before the entire City Council." Cripps has also expressed the desire that City Judge Hilton Conger serve as Parliamentarian, and that he rule on any legal issues raised during the hearing.
Cripps spoke before the city board at Monday night’s regular meeting, and expressed her disapproval of the daytime hearing.
"We're just here to say that we have been advised that the hearing to determine Chief Caplinger’s termination would be held in the morning," Cripps said. We are requesting that it be held at a regularly scheduled meeting of this body, which would be in the evening so that everyone could go. It was explained to our office that the meeting couldn't be held in the afternoon because Mayor Poss and Alderman Danny Washer also drive school buses, so they would not be available. I was disappointed in the attempts, which I regard as reprehensible, to hold a meeting of this magnitude in the morning, at a time when it really makes a mockery of the term "public hearing" because two of the aldermen we know of have prior commitments, and it makes it very difficult for them to be here. It appears as though it's an attempt to circumvent the real intention of city code 4205, and to have the outcome foreordained. I just want to encourage everyone to govern in the sunshine and to make your decisions in the gaze of the public."
"We have other meetings in the morning that you are probably not aware of. It’s not the only time we’ve done this," Mayor Poss replied.
Alderman Shawn Jacobs told the assembly that he is unable to attend a morning meeting because of his work schedule, and is asking that it be held at a more convenient time for himself and all others involved including the public.
Alderman Jacobs said that he could not attend a morning meeting and added that he didn't understand why it could not be scheduled in the late afternoon or in the evening at a time when the mayor and the entire board of aldermen could attend which would also make it more convenient for the public.
"The meetings we have had in the mornings were when I was able to attend due to my schedule," added
Jacobs. "Now my schedule has changed. I can only attend afternoon or evening meetings. My being able to attend afternoon or evening meetings is no different from you (Poss) and Mr. Washer being able to attend morning meetings. I think as a member of this board I am entitled to be at any meeting. I think every effort should be made to allow all members of the board be present. I too find it reprehensible that there seems to be no effort to accommodate those of us who are unable to attend. It think it certainly doesn't look good on the city that it's going to be held when perhaps members of the public who would like to be here aren't going to be here. I think there may be some legal concern with this being scheduled when perhaps a quorum might not even be present. I think we're in some gray territory as far as whether this is even legal or not."
"Shawn, have you checked with anybody to see if it’s legal?" asked the mayor.
"I have not, because I hope we would all be ladies and gentlemen enough, and be concerned enough about our responsibilities to the residents of the city that we could work out a time like we've always done before. We've always worked to try to accommodate each other's schedule, and I don't see why we can't do it this time. Any afternoon or evening I can be here. My work is out of town and I can't take mornings off because that's when the heaviest part of my work is done. I just simply don't understand why we can't have an evening meeting. It seems like it would be more convenient for everybody, including the public," Jacobs replied.
"I don't think a meeting has been scheduled yet has it?" asked Alderman Gayla Hendrix. One was scheduled, but we got an email and Ms. Cripps asked for a different date. Several of us aren't available (on April 10). I've not gotten a message on another meeting."
"What was the reason the first one was cancelled?" asked Washer.
"I just got that Ms. Cripps had asked for a different date," Hendrix replied.
"We had a conflict," Cripps offered.
"I couldn't be here for that one either, because it was in the morning," Jacobs added.
"I think there's two or three of us who can't make that date, but we haven't discussed another date. I'm open to any date but let's discuss that through email," Hendrix said.
"You set the time, and if I am in the county, if I'm available, I'll be here. I don't care when it is. I want to get this done. Surely to goodness we can come together on one day when everybody can be here. I have told everyone when I can not be here. I’m not changing my vacation for a special called meeting. Any other time I'll work my schedule to be here," Washer said.
"I think that is something we can easily pass an email around. Mr. (Jason) Murphy is not here tonight, but we can get a consensus when we're all available. We can check calendars, but there is no reason to hash on that tonight when we don't have everybody here to make a decision," said Alderman Hendrix.
"I certainly would if I could, but I can’t take off work in the morning," Jacobs reiterated.
"What time do you get off work Shawn?" the mayor asked.
"It varies. Today I didn't get home until 4 p.m." Jacobs replied.
"So how do we plan on that"? Poss asked.
"Well I'll be home by 6 p.m. I'll certainly be home by late afternoon or by 6 p.m." Jacobs answered.
"So in other words, we've got to accommodate you. I don't even want to argue the thing," said Poss
"I don't either but we've always worked to try to accommodate everyone before," Jacobs shot back.
"We can if everybody will try to work with everybody," said Poss.
"I can make any late afternoon or evening," Jacobs stressed.
"That's what I'm saying. Everybody has got to change for you. Let’s go on. This is not even on the agenda." Poss concluded.