Several concerned citizens attended the Oct. 16 city council meeting after hearing Cherokee Village Police Chief Scott Goodwin had resigned. The anticipation grew as the council went on with their regular meeting. After all business was complete the council went into executive session.
Upon their return, Cherokee Village Mayor Lloyd Hefley made a statement informing the public that he had asked Cherokee Village Police Chief, Scott Goodwin to resign and demoted Sgt. Ric Morris to patrol officer.
"On Oct. 10, I received a letter from all the police officers working for the city of Cherokee Village that they were working in a hostile work environment. They stated this hostile environment has managed to squash their department," Mayor Hefley said. "This led to an environment of fear and intimidation creating a high level of stress and distraction. The officers directed most of their dissatisfaction toward Sargeant Ric Morris, stating all of these problems started when Chief Scott Goodwin promoted Officer Ric Morris to Sergeant on Nov. 16, 2006.
"Obviously these problems occurred over a long period of time without being addressed by Chief Goodwin," Hefley continued. "It is Chief Goodwin's responsibility for: leadership, guidance and a positive officer/ management relationship. His failure to correct this hostile environment exemplifies his lack of leadership.
"In order to correct this very serious situation, I have asked Chief Goodwin to resign. I have demoted Sgt. Ric Morris to patrol officer." Hefley said. "We have very qualified and experienced police officers with many hours of training, that with proper leadership could become the best police department in the state."
Following the statement made by Hefley, the meeting was adjourned. The room filled with discontent the citizens watched Goodwin walk out of the room.
After a few minutes passed, Goodwin re-entered the room and approached the council members who were still in attendance. Laying the city credit card on the table in front of them he said, "I will not resign, you will have to fire me." The council members told Goodwin it was not up to them and he would have to speak with the mayor who had already left the council room.
Several Cherokee Village police officers hung their heads as Mayor Hefley gave his speech. "This is not what we wanted," the officers said. "We all came tonight to support Chief Goodwin."
The group of officers who made the complaint to Mayor Hefley wrote a letter to the council that said: "We, the officers of Cherokee Village Police Department, feel we have forced an errant decision. When we first met with one another, we in no way could have expected nor desired the resulting outcome. Our intentions were to bring to the forefront acts by one individual to the attention of Chief Goodwin and Mayor Hefley. We, the officers, did not expect a hasty response when such heavy allegations were made. We then felt as we do now, that decisions of such magnitude require much time and deliberation. When the officers assembled with Chief Goodwin on Oct. 1, we were told to gather our grievances and he would arrange a meeting with Mayor Hefley. When we were informed there was a staff meeting on Oct. 9 we were elated at the opportunity to be able to express our concerns. We chose a vote of no confidence letter format to express our concerns regarding what we believed to be personnel conflicts arising in the department. During the meeting we quickly understood we had in fact made assumptions that were incorrect. Mayor Hefley informed us that the meeting was called for other concerns and he was not prepared to handle this situation at the time without some research. He also stated he thought this was a matter to be handled by Chief Goodwin.
"On Oct. 10 I was approached by an individual who had heard of the unrest within the department and was concerned. That individual's biggest concern was whether or not Chief Goodwin was handling the situation. My response was, 'I don't believe Chief Goodwin has had ample time and opportunity to handle the situation.' At no time did any officer believe our concerns would go unanswered.
"Our greatest concern now turns to Chief Goodwin. No officer of this department is gullible enough to believe that Chief Goodwin is a perfect leader. Chief Goodwin is human, such as we all are, and therefore, is incapable of being infallible. We, the officers, believe however, Chief Goodwin is our leader. We believe that any decision to replace him would be a mistake. We believe that the decision to ask for his resignation was made in haste. We do not believe that Mayor Hefley made this decision with any malice towards anyone but was acting in good faith and of concern for the good citizens of Cherokee Village. However, we ask this council and Mayor Hefley to heavily weigh this decision and reinstate Chief Scott Goodwin."
"Mayor Hefley told us he would appoint an interim chief during the meeting tonight but since that did not happen we are working without a chief," the officers said.
"You are witnessing a public lynching," John Walters, a Cherokee Village man, said. "If he (Mayor Hefley) does this it is going to set this city back eight years. When he (Goodwin) came to us from Horseshoe Bend he changed our whole town. He (Goodwin) came in as a lieutenant and reformed the whole town."
Walters, who has lived in Cherokee Village for 25 years, said he has had personal experience with both Goodwin and Morris. Walters said both officers are a great asset to the city and well respected by the citizens.
Helga Lane of Cherokee Village also expressed her disagreement with Mayor Hefley's decision. "I know Ric Morris and it is not in his nature (to create a hostile environment)," she said. "He (Morris) doesn't have a mean bone in his body."
"All I've gotten is support for my decision," Mayor Hefley said Oct. 17. "I have been backed 100 percent by the council."
Mayor Hefley said he feels he made the right decision in asking Goodwin to resign. "I demoted him (Morris) because I have no confidence in his ability to lead," Hefley said. "Chief was dismissed because he did not address the problem. He did not do his job at all."
According to the Arkansas Municipal League the mayor has the right to terminate without any guidance from the council. The city council can overrule Hefley's decision, if he terminates Goodwin, with a two-thirds vote.
At press time on Monday, Oct. 20 Mayor Hefley stated that Goodwin has been terminated. Hefley said he will act as interim chief of police at this time.
In other business, Jonathan Duran, of Jonesboro presented a new mapping program to the council. The Dynamic Data Product would allow the planning and zoning committee to build the city map with as many specifications as they desired.
The program allows the map to be broken down by zones, school districts, lake communities, golf communities, sphere of influence and much more. The complexity of the map would depend on what the city wanted. This need for the program will be discussed along with the expense.
The administration requested several budget increases totaling $4,700. "Why are we increasing money to the building and grounds when the animal shelter and police department are suffering?" council member, Tom Thone asked.
"It is up to the department heads to request budget increases," council member Verna Mae Newman replied. The increases were then voted on and approved.
Jonathan Duran asked the council's approval to obtain a sphere of influence over the Beach Club area. "I spoke with Hardy Mayor and she has no problem with it," Duran told the council.
"How would this benefit us?" council member, Scott Paul asked.
"It keeps people from putting up anything undesirable," Duran replied. Paul then asked what authority the sphere of influence gives the city.
"Sphere of influence gives the authority to zone and plan," Cherokee Village Attorney John Ables said. After discussion the sphere of influence was approved by the council.
The council discussed advalorem taxes being increased. Cherokee Village currently assess no city taxes on real estate or personal property, the council discussed assessing a small tax to help with the financials.
After discussion, the council decided to assess one millage, which is equal to one tenth of a percent. If a home is worth $50,000 the tax will go up $10 per year with the millage increase. The council estimated this will produce approximately $46,000 more per year in revenue.
The Cherokee Village animal shelter is holding an adoption week at Wal-Mart Oct. 18 - Oct. 25. The shelter volunteers will be outside of the shopping center during the day accompanied by furry companions waiting for homes.