Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

TOP STORY >> Finalist for chief left job under a cloud

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

Although his resume won’t reflect it, one of the five finalists to be the next Lonoke chief of police was forced from his job as Blytheville chief of police in February, in part for using the “n” word during the course of a drug taskforce operation, according to articles published in the Blytheville Courier News.

In a negotiated settlement with the city, Royce Carpenter ceased his official duties in February, but including accumulated vacation and leave, he will be paid through mid-October.

The settlement between Carpen-ter and the city requires officials to describe his performance and circumstances of his leaving in “neutral terms,” the Courier News learned through the answer to a Freedom of Information request.
Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett said Tuesday, however, that Blythe-ville Mayor Barrett Harrison had given Carpenter a very good recommendation.

Other terms of the agreement call for Carpenter to receive his regular salary while on extended leave of absence until Oct. 14, 2006 and allow him to retain his title during that time. Asked about that Tuesday, Privett said he had been unaware of the controversy or circumstances surrounding Carpenter’s departure from the Blytheville chief’s job.
“It sounds like there are some internal problems,” he said. “There’s definitely a shadow there.”

Privett said the interviews already were set up and that Alderman Michael Florence was checking Carpenter’s Blytheville references while he had asked state Sen. Bobby Glover to help find people to talk to in Camden, where Carpenter was chief for 20 years.

The 10-person search committee is slated to interview Carpenter and the four other finalists for Lonoke police chief on Thursday. Privett has said he hopes to name a new police chief next week.

Carpenter’s detractors say he left under significant scrutiny and criticism for an abusive management style, raising the ire of some on the city council.

His supporters say he inherited “a mess” when he took over the position with a mandate to clean it up and that many of his problems stemmed from internal resistance to changes he made.

The incident with the racially insensitive language was not directed toward anyone, but part of a term used to describe a situation, according to reports.

In a Feb. 12 press release, Carpenter pointed to the declining number of crimes, saying, “The direction in which I was leading the department was correct and good for the city and its residents.”

Lonoke received 29 applications from around the country as well as from Jordan, South Africa and Great Britain, Privett said.
Lonoke has been without a permanent police chief since Jay Campbell resigned in February after Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain filed drug- and theft-related felony charges against him.

Capt. Sean O’Nale, the interim chief since that time, is not a candidate for the job.
The other finalists include Don Black of Tuckerman; Rick Sliger, chief of the of Eagle, Colo., Police Department; Nicholas Finer of Kinston, Ala., and Bobby Tanner of San Bernadino, Calif.

The Colorado and California applicants each had ties to Arkansas, Privett said.
Both Black and Finer continue as police chiefs. No information was readily available by press time about Sliger and Tanner.
Privett said the names of the applicants were removed from the information passed on to the search committee, and each of the 29 was rated by each of the commissioners.

By law, the mayor has the authority to hire the police chief, but he said his recommendation would probably be the same as the committee recommendation. Privett will then ask the city council to endorse his decision.

He said different committee members had different priorities. Some stressed the importance of a new chief’s personality in dealing with the public, his experience and also experience as a successful supervisor.