"It seems we have a lack of communication between our mayor and our police chief," was the start of a speech given by Councilman Jerrell Lesley at the Oct. 20 Ash Flat City Council meeting.
The problems Lesley refered to in his speech stem from the February incident between Mayor Danny Traw, Chief Mike Zeiger and two other officers.
The night of the Feb. 5 tornado, Officer Bobby Woods claimed Traw fired him and suspended Zeiger and former Ash Flat Officer Tamara Roberts. The disagreement was cleared up during a special meeting held by the city council Feb. 11, but the effects of the emotions still linger.
During the past three months, Zeiger and the council have been interviewing for a new police officer. "I thought a month ago we had the hiring all done and in the past month it was changed. I don't think our department head had any say in this," Lesley said. "I don't think this is the way our city should be run."
Lesley went on to talk about the new handbook that was handed out to employees and the council. "Our new handbook doesn't say so, but I feel our department heads have a big impact on our hiring," he said. "The old handbook gives the department head 50 percent say in hiring and firing and the mayor 50 percent say. The new handbook gives the mayor considerably more say, but it wasn't handed out until this week."
"In the new handbook the mayor has the authority -- I don't like that -- I think two heads are better than one." Lesley continued, "Termination was up to the mayor and the department heads to agree, in the new handbook it's not that way. We had it this way so cooler heads would prevail."
"There is a problem and has been an on going problem between the mayor and the police chief -- I don't see it with any other department and I can't put all of the blame on the police chief," Lesley said.
Lesley said the council just needs full cooperation between them and all of the department heads.
"I think Mr. Lesley was just pointing out some procedures that were not followed," Zeiger said. "He (Lesley) is trying to insure the department heads be given the authority to run their department. There has to be a chain of command."
Following executive session the council announced their decision to hire two new police officers.
Dan Fry was hired as the new full-time police officer in Ash Flat. The council set his salary at $20,000 per year with a $1,000 raise after his completion of the Academy. Fry started work Oct. 21.
The part-time position was filled by Steven Powell whose pay was set at $7.50 per hour. The council said Powell's schedule would be worked out.
The council passed a resolution to continue the natural gas project making them the second city to do so in Sharp County, following Highland.