MT. VERNON — City officials are delaying an ordinance change affecting the hiring of chiefs and assistant chiefs in the police and fire departments.
“The City of Mt. Vernon will not have a second reading of an ordinance addressing amendments to the hiring procedures of the city’s Board of Police and Fire Commissioner at the May 19 Council meeting,” a press release states. “This item was tentatively scheduled for a second reading at that May meeting. Instead, the Council will be scheduling a Council Workshop session in the near future with the city’s Fire and Police Commissioners, Mayor, Council and a representative from the Illinois Municipal League.”
The reason for the workshop is stated to be to get more background information concerning procedures.
Last week, the council held a first reading the ordinance, which would change the responsibilities of the Police and Fire Commission to make rules only concerning the appointment, removal and discharge of officers and members of the police and fire departments, except for the chief and assistant chief.
For the chiefs and assistant chiefs of each department, under terms of the proposed ordinance, the positions “shall be appointed and discharged by, shall be under the supervision and control of, and shall serve at the pleasure of the City Manager,” according to the ordinance.
During the discussion and first reading of the ordinance last week, City Councilman David McEnaney said he asked the city manager to prepare the ordinance for review of the council. McEnaney said under the existing ordinance, the Police and Fire Commissioners can only look at internal candiates for the positions of Assistant Chief and Chief of the two departments. At this time, the position of police chief is vacant, after the retirement of Chief Chris Mendenall in February.
“I believe we need to look for internal and external candidates,” McEnaney said. “If this ordinance passes, the city manager would have the ability to hire, fire and discipline chiefs; and they could go inside the department or outside.”
The issue divided the council, with Councilman David Wood saying he did not agree with the proposed ordinance as presented. In addition, several members of the public spoke their opposition to the ordinance change.
No workshop session has been scheduled at this time.