Meeting called to discuss Few

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 7, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Newly-hired fire chief Ronnie Few stepped into his duties Monday morning and was given a tour of the city courtesy of Capt. Tommy Tate.

According to City Clerk Paula Byrd, all of Few&8217;s necessary paperwork has been completed, and he is now considered a full-time city employee.

However, in light of the recent unveiling of controversies in Few&8217;s past, the city council has called a special meeting to discuss his future with the Demopolis Fire Department.

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Councilman Jack Cooley said he requested to the mayor Friday afternoon that a special meeting be held to discuss recently introduced information about Few.

When asked if he stood by the vote he made at Thursday night&8217;s meeting to hire Few, Cooley said he did at the time, but there needs to be more discussion on the matter.

Councilman Charles Jones said he stood by his vote because he trusted the research done by the Personnel Committee.

Councilman Melvin Yelverton, who sits on the Personnel Committee, said he, too, stands by the council&8217;s decision.

Councilmen Woody Collins and Thomas Moore could not be reached for comment. Moore sits on the Personnel Committee as well, with Mayor Cecil P. Williamson making up the third member of the committee.

The councilmen interviewed said they were unsure of the format of the meeting.

Yelverton did confirm that during the interview and application process the Personnel Committee requested Public Safety Director Jeff Manuel to go to Georgia and conduct a thorough background check on Few.

Manuel said of his first impressions of Few, &8220;He seemed to be professional.&8221;

After meeting with Few and doing the background check, Manuel said he then verbally reported his findings &8212; which included information about the grand jury investigation in Augusta, Ga., charges of falsifying resume items in Washington, D.C., and his homestead exemption controversy during a failed bid for mayor of Augusta &8212; to the mayor. Manuel said he understands the report was made available to the other members of the Personnel Committee.

When asked if the Personnel Committee made his findings available to the rest of the council, Manuel said he did not know if that was done.

Repeated attempts to speak with Few were ineffective. He was reached by phone at approximately 10 a.m. Monday. He said he was at a doctor&8217;s appointment, giving the impression he was not in town. He said he would be available for comment later Monday afternoon.

During a lunch break, a Times staff member saw Few eating with Tate at Mr. G&8217;s. Further attempts to reach Few at the fire department, on his cell phone and at the hotel where he is staying were unsuccessful.

If the council chooses, Cooley said, they could terminate his hiring with a majority vote.

According to Byrd, it is her understanding that the new chief is under an at-will, six-month probationary period during which either party can decide to terminate their agreement for any reason.