In a surprise move in the city of Ash Flat, Mayor Brien Nix Hall fired Police Chief Rickey Crook Nov. 12.
The mayor called Crook to City Hall and told him he was being let go. Crook said Hall did not give a specific reason why, but suggested it might have something to do with a letter Crook sent Nov. 11 to City Hall, city attorney Larry Kissee and Areawide Media concerning the legalities of the council's executive sessions.
Crook wrote: "ACA 25-19-106 states that the specific purpose shall be announced in public before going into executive session. It does not allow for the list of possible reasons to simply be read without being specific, as is currently being practiced."
Crook requested that he be allowed to be present when the police department or one of its employees is to be discussed in executive session.
"Rick's direction was not the direction I was wanting the city to get into," Hall said. "We want to continue to progress and continue to make positive development. I regret that Rick could not make the changes that were needed."
Although Crook said he and the mayor didn't see eye to eye, he said he had no idea he would be fired.
"I was absolutely shocked," Crook said. "I always knew it was a possibility, but I didn't think much about it. He really didn't give a reason."
Crook had served as chief of police for Ash Flat since he was hired in March 1991. Before working for the city, he had been employed for three years by the Sharp County Sheriff's Office as a jailer and a dispatcher.
City attorney Larry Kissee said the mayor has the authority to fire someone without the council's approval, but the decision can be appealed by the employee who was let go.
If the council decides to overturn Hall's decision, the council will have to approve the decision with a 2/3-majority vote. With Scott Brewer serving in the military, four of the five remaining aldermen will have to vote to overturn the decision to place Crook back on the city payroll as chief of police.
Crook said he is putting his plans on hold until the council is given the chance to vote.
"If they support his decision I guess I'll start looking for another job," Crook said. "If they overturn it I'll go back to work as usual."
Crook was paid a salary and benefits package equaling $42,000 annually, Hall said. Crook said the city paid him his back holiday pay before he was released. Kissee said the other officers also received their checks.
Hall said he believes Crook is a skilled officer and said he wishes him well in his new endeavors.
"I think Rick will do well no matter where he goes," Hall said.
Hall said the city will evaluate the situation and determine whether the city needs to hire another officer. Assistant Chief of Police Shane Meyer is serving as acting chief in Crook's absence.