Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

TOP STORY >> Beebe police upset with hiring by chief

Leader staff writer

Five Beebe police officers have filed grievances, claiming they were not given an opportunity to apply for a promotion to sergeant before Police Chief Jess Odom hired a 30-year veteran law-enforcement officer for the position without advertising it.

It is unclear how the grievances will be resolved because no one in the city is certain who should hear them or whether any hiring or promotion policy was violated.

The grievances were filed by officers Zack Dixon, Freda Callahan, Blake Robertson, David Cook and Brian Coates.
Finding the answer is the job of Beebe City Attorney Mark Derrick, who said Tuesday that he hopes it is somewhere in the stack of documents Mayor Donald Ward and Odom have given him to read.

The possible problem with hiring Alton Boyd for the sergeant’s job was made public during the September city council meeting Monday night.

Alderman Mike Robertson, a former mayor, told Ward and the other council members that in his opinion, Odom had circumvented the state law that requires advertising vacancies and the city ordinance that says the council approves hiring new employees.

Ward countered that he trusts Odom to make the right choices for the city and that the council had adopted a police policy handbook that spelled out hiring practices which superceded other ordinances.

Robertson said during the Monday night council meeting that he could find no record that the city council ever adopted the handbook.
Odom first hired Boyd as animal control officer, a position that was put under his authority a month earlier. Then two days after Boyd went to work in animal control, Odom hired him as a patrol sergeant.

The city attorney and some members of the council called the move a promotion within the department. But Robertson says there is no way a person can be promoted “from dog catcher to police sergeant.”

The animal-control position was advertised in local papers as required by state law. In fact, it was advertised twice, once to hire Boyd, who lives in Searcy and a second time to hire Horrace Taylor, a former Beebe council member. But the sergeant’s position was not advertised even within the department. Alderman Janice Petray told Derrick she wanted the matter resolved before the November council meeting.
“It’s drug on long enough,” she said.