MT. VERNON — Residents spoke out Monday against changing the responsibility of hiring and firing police and fire chiefs.
“I don’t know how any council person would want one person making a decision where nepotism, favoritism or corruption could be possible or perceived as possible by the public,” said Roger Hayse.
Hayse was one of several residents not only heard the explanations of the current method of hiring police and fire chiefs, but of proposed changes to the system which would eliminate the Fire and Police Commission from the process and instead put the city manager in the position to do the hiring and the firing.
The issue first came to the attention of the public in May, when a first reading of an ordinance was presented to the council. According to Councilman David Wood, who said at the time he was surprised by the ordinance, the term “surprise” was to show the fact that he “didn’t know it was going to be presented that night.”
“This issue came up two years ago,” Wood said. “We had informal discussions two years ago and other discussions since then.”
City Attorney David Leggans presented the council with information on how the Fire and Police Commission work at this time and with possible options for changes to the system.
Leggans explained the commission consists of three members who serve three year terms, and can only be removed for cause. The commission has authority with regard to new hires, promotions and discipline. The commission conducts all testing and evaluations for appointments including written tests and oral interviews for new and promotional appointments, and physical testing for new appointments only. Hiring evaluation for chiefs and assistant chiefs is by oral interview only. The commission creates the hiring and promotion eligibility lists for new hires and promotions. The commission authorizes hiring and promotions based on a city request.