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Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014

A new beginning

Thursday, November 6, 2008

(Photo)
Cherokee Village Mayor Lloyd Hefley swore in the new Cherokee Village Police Chief, Jason French, on his first day of duty, Nov. 1.
"I believe and feel that the mayor wrongfully, arbitrarily and capriciously decided to terminate me against department policy and without due process," Former Cherokee Village Police Chief Scott Goodwin told the Cherokee Village City Council Oct. 28.

Goodwin, who was terminated by Cherokee Village Mayor Lloyd Hefley Oct. 20, requested a hearing concerning his dismissal. The guidelines of the hearing were: Mayor Hefley was not allowed to sit on the council; Goodwin and Hefley each had 15 minutes to state their case to the council; and no commentary was to be made by the audience. Alderman Russ Stokes chaired the hearing.

Goodwin approached the council and continued his prepared speech by reminding the council of the actions taken against him. "At the Oct. 16 council meeting, the council went into executive session to discuss personnel issues. Upon returning, Alderman Stokes stated that the council backed the decision of the mayor regarding his request that I resign. The mayor then read a statement saying that it was due to lack of leadership on my part. I was not given the opportunity to attend or discuss the issues with the council. The officers provided a letter to the council stating that they felt this was an errant decision and that I have not had ample time and opportunity to handle the situation. The officers also stated that they believe that I am their leader and that they believe the decision to replace me would be a mistake and asking for my resignation was made in haste.

"The Cherokee Village city (employee) handbook states that 'if dismissal is contemplated for cause, the employee may be informed of the need to improve or change behavior and be given a specified amount of time to make this correction.' A review of my personnel file will reveal no disciplinary record of any kind. I do not feel due process was afforded me in correcting the issues at hand within the police department," Goodwin went on to recite the policy written in the employee handbook.

He ended his speech to the council stating, "I did not resign regardless of what the mayor has told the media and public. After not resigning, I received a letter Oct. 21 (dated Oct. 20) from Mayor Hefley advising me of my termination as chief of police. At no time was I afforded any termination or pre-termination hearing or otherwise afforded an opportunity to challenge the unsubstantiated allegations against me by the mayor.

"In light of the above facts and the fact that a new police chief has been appointed before my opportunity to address the council and exercise my rights of due process, I believe my discharge by Mayor Hefley was unjust, against department and public policy, arbitrary and capricious.

"I respectfully request the City Council review the facts stated above and the decision made by Mayor Hefley to terminate my employment with the Cherokee Village Police Department."

Alderman Peter Martin asked Goodwin if the policy he had stated was followed in the past. Martin referred to a city employee being discharged while Goodwin was employed with the city. The employee requested her situation be reviewed and according to Martin, was told by Goodwin this is a right-to-work state. Goodwin did not reply but read a statement saying he would not answer the question due to his legal council not being present.

The council excused Goodwin and asked Mayor Hefley to come forward. Hefley told the council he felt the statement he made during the Oct. 16 meeting expressed all he had to say about the situation.

In the statement Hefley made Oct. 16 he said the police officers had written a letter stating they were working in a hostile environment. The officers said this hostile environment started when Goodwin promoted officer Ric Morris to sergeant on Nov. 16, 2006.

"It is Chief Goodwin's responsibility for: leadership, guidance, a positive officer/management relationship. His failure to correct this hostile environment exemplifies his lack of leadership," Hefley said.

"In order to correct this very serious situation I have asked Chief Goodwin to resign. I have demoted Sergeant Ric Morris to patrol officer," was the statement Hefley read at the Nov. 16 meeting.

"Does the council desire to take any action regarding Mr. Goodwin's appeal?" Stokes asked. The vote was brought to a roll call and the council voted unanimously to uphold Hefley's decision to terminate Goodwin.

After the meeting was adjourned, Goodwin approached the council to shake each of the alderman's hands.

Hefley has been acting as interim police chief since Oct. 20 but was relieved of this position Nov. 1 when Jason French started as the new Cherokee Village Police Chief.

The council interviewed French Oct. 17 during a special council meeting. French was previously employed by Black River Technical College where he has been an Instructor of Law Enforcement Training since 2002.

French and his family moved to Cherokee Village three years ago and he has been commuting to Pocahontas for work. He has a long list of law enforcement credentials including; Sergeant, Supervisor, Investigator of the Second Judicial Drug Task Force in Jonesboro, Adjunct Instructor for Black River Technical College, Patrol Officer for Jonesboro, Transport Officer for United States Marshals Services and Shift Supervisor for Craighead County Sheriff's Department.

"My law enforcement career has provided me the opportunity to cultivate relationships with various local, state and federal entities," French said in a letter to Mayor Hefley. "Through these relationships, I have gained a thorough knowledge of their operation, policies and methodologies."

"I feel it would be an honor to serve my community which has provided a unique environment to raise our children," French said.



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