By DAVID GREEN
Morenci city council members remain split on a decision to fill the empty police chief position and mayor Bill Foster's intention of appointing Don Thompson as the interim chief was removed from the agenda for the meeting Monday night.
During a committee of the whole meeting before the regular meeting, council member Brenda Spiess expressed her surprise that a police chief appointment was on the agenda, stating that she thought council was following a process to examine candidates.
Foster said he thought was taken of at the previous meeting and he wanted to move forward with getting someone in charge.
"It needs to be done, it needs clarity," he said. "Now we're in the same position as we were with Ryan [Hillard.] You can't discipline any of your men because you're in the union."
Spiess said she was disturbed that Foster was ready to make a recommendation without further discussion.
Foster said he intended to appoint Thompson to the post. He said council looked foolish for putting Hillard in charge and then having to change his title.
Councilor Ron Apger also spoke about about council's mistakes in the past.
"Larry Weeks recommended somebody who wasn't even close to being qualified for the job and it embarrassed us," he said.
"I don't think Ryan embarrassed us by any means," Spiess responded.
"No, he didn't," Apger said. "This council embarrassed itself by putting somebody who wasn't qualified in when everybody in that room out there wanted somebody that was. And everybody in town wanted somebody that was.
"I'll tell you right now," Apger continued, "there ain't nobody in this room who would disagree with the fact that the other person was way, way more qualified for that job than Ryan was. Anybody who disagrees with that needs to re-think and re-read both files."
"You may have different criteria for what you think is qualified," Spiess said.
"We can stop bickering about this crap and get on to real business," Apger said, "and stop the personal stuff."
Spiess said she didn't understand what was "personal" about her concerns.
Council member Jeff Bell also thought a clear direction was established in which city administrator/clerk Michael Sessions would make background checks on the two candidates and then council would further discuss the next step. Instead, the mayor was suddenly ready to make an appointment.
Foster said that a person needs to be named as interim chief in order to deal with union employees.
"I'm concerned that we don't have anything in place to define what we want in an interim, no matter who is hired," said council Sean Seger. "Anyone appointed should know what's expected. We need to step back and decide clearly what we want from an interim police chief before we make an appointment."
"It's definitely needed because we just came out of an interim chief who did nothing for two months," Apger said.
The interim status can be changed at any time, Foster said, but the position is needed to oversee the other officers.
That would require Thompson to leave the union, Sessions said. After an e-mail exchange with the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM), he isn't so sure that Thompson would be allowed back into the union if he later became a patrolman.
An agreement would be needed between the employee, the City and the POAM and the person Sessions spoke with wasn't so sure the POAM would do that.
Council doesn't know if Thompson is willing to take that risk, Bell said.
"I cannot trust this council the way I've been treated to treat me fair," Thompson said.
Sessions said a representative from the association would be willing to explain the concerns to council.