Circuit Court Judge Amy Hollars ruled Thursday morning that former Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger would not be returned to the job. Caplinger, who was suspended without pay pending termination by Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss on March 13 after he refused to resign, and was fired on March 19.
After listening to testimony in a seven-hour due process hearing on May 8, city aldermen voted 3-2 in support of the mayor’s decision to terminate Caplinger. Aldermen Danny Washer, Jason Murphy and Gayla Hendrix voted to uphold the mayor's action, while Shawn Jacobs and Josh Miller cast dissenting votes.
Caplinger’s representation, Sarah Cripps and Brandon Cox, held, however, that based on Article III Section 3.01 of the city charter, four votes, or a super majority, was needed to decide the matter, and petitioned the court to return Caplinger to his position as chief and receive back pay from the time of his suspension.
City Attorney Vester Parsley opined that Section 3.08 of the charter, which calls for only a majority of the board, or three votes, to come to a decision on a contested termination by the mayor.
The judge ruled in the city’s favor, saying that Section 3.08 is the correct provision to observe in the firing, and that Section 3.01 was on the books for the reorganization of the city government, and that Caplinger should not be returned to his job back or receive any back pay.
Cripps told the Review in a prepared statement that: “The Court held that the termination of Chief David Randall Caplinger by a simple majority vote of the Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen was proper pursuant to Section 3.08 of the Charter of the City of Smithville. Additionally, the Court held that Section 3.08 of the Charter is the controlling provision respecting the personnel actions of promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, and removal of all employees of the City of Smithville,” she said.
“The Court further held that by voting to terminate Chief Caplinger, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen also voted to approve the less stringent and severe action of Mayor Poss’ suspension of Chief Caplinger six days earlier on March 13, 2015,” Cripps continued.
“As a law enforcement official possessing thirty years of distinguished public service with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and five years of public service as Chief of the Smithville Police Department, Chief Caplinger has the utmost respect for our judicial process,” she shared. “While reasonable minds can differ and disagree as to the interpretation of the ambiguous and conflicting provisions of the Charter of the City of Smithville that were at issue in Chief Caplinger’s case, the Court’s ruling is carefully considered and well-reasoned. At this time, Chief Caplinger is weighing his options concerning how he wishes to move forward in this matter.”
Cripps also offered a message on Caplinger’s behalf.
“Chief Caplinger wishes to express his deep appreciation and gratitude to all of those in our community who have demonstrated their unwavering support for him during the past several months,” she said.