Smithville aldermen voted Monday night to accept applications for a new police chief.
With Gayla Hendrix absent, the city council voted 4-0 to accept applications for the position, which has been vacant since former chief Randy Caplinger was terminated in March, even though a pending lawsuit in the city could conceivably be ordered to reinstate Caplinger as Chief.
Mayor Jimmy Poss told the aldermen that he thinks it's time for the process of hiring a new chief to begin.
"I just feel like it's time we do something to address this problem. These guys (city police) have been doing a wonderful job. Steven Leffew has, but I think it's time we carried it a little further," the mayor said.
Aldermen Shawn Jacobs and Josh Miller, expressed concern over the matter of the lawsuit.
"Mr. Parsley what is the status of the lawsuit?" Alderman Jacobs asked the city attorney.
"We have a hearing set in October. Briefs have been submitted, and we'll be doing oral arguments that day," Parsley replied.
"Correct me if I'm wrong but there is the chance that we could be ordered to re-instate Mr. Caplinger?" Jacobs inquired.
"I think that is a possibility, but I have no way of knowing. Anything is a possibility right now, we won’t know until we get in front of a judge," replied Parsley.
"I agree, I believe we do need to move forward. I'm just concerned that we have jumped the gun, and perhaps could cost the city some money, and also make ourselves look bad, if we hired somebody and then we are ordered to reinstate Mr. Caplinger," Jacobs said.
"Mr. Parsley, will they make a ruling in October?" Miller asked.
"I don't know," Parsley responded. "It's up to the judge. The judge can defer that and study the issue and make the decision later, or the judge could make a decision that day. If I were guessing I'd say there probably wouldn't be a decision made that day. Usually the judge wants to hear the arguments and not make a rash decision. I would say they wouldn't keep that decision for a long time."
Miller reiterated an opinion he voiced at last month’s meeting that he would like to see an interim chief hired until the lawsuit is settled.
"Again, I would ask the board if you want to put a new chief in place, I would love to see him be named interim until the lawsuit is settled. I just don't want to see more trouble on the horizon," Miller said.
"I don't think you would get anybody that would do it interim. They wouldn't have a guarantee of a job," The mayor replied.
"The only reservation I have about designating somebody interim is, would anyone apply for the job if they knew in six months they may not be able to keep it? I think that would hurt the people who apply for it. I think it would limit the number of people," Alderman Jason Murphy agreed.
"This is not the first time this has happened. What have we done in the past?" asked Alderman Danny Washer, referring to the case of Richard Jennings, the chief before Caplinger, who was terminated and sued the city.
"In the past we took applications and then did interviews and hired a chief. The case previous to Chief Caplinger's went on for over a year," Parsley replied.
"We didn't have a problem with it the first time, so why do we have a problem advertising for it now? We're going to have to have a chief. This (lawsuit) could go on for a year or two years," Washer said.
"There could be an appeal if it goes against Mr. Caplinger, or if it went against the city. Obviously we have the right to appeal. If it goes up to the Court of Appeals you're talking about many more months. Probably up to twelve to eighteen months. I'm not saying anyone will appeal. I'm saying both sides have the right to appeal," Parsley added.
"Are we willing to wait that long to get a chief? We've been fortunate. Like everybody has said, the boys have done a great job. I have no complaints. The only thing I have heard is that it's time to get a chief. I make a motion that we advertise and see what we get, and go from there," said Washer
Miller seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.