Our Opinion: Council acts appropriately in hiring interim chief

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2008

Even a broken clock is right twice a day &8212; a homily that was proven true earlier this week when the Demopolis City Council promoted Detective Sgt. Tim Williams to interim police chief.

Williams has 20 years of service to the city, plus a reputation for honesty and, frankly, kindness that will help him run the Demopolis Police Department in the coming months. Williams is a stable part of the community outside the department, as well. He is married with two daughters and is an active member in his church. He has not decided yet whether he will pursue the position permanently, but the council must look at him as a serious candidate to take the chief&8217;s seat for good.

The second time the council got things right this week was when they recommended Williams serve with departing public safety director Jeff Manuel until Manuel&8217;s last day on June 20. That decision means Manuel won&8217;t be forced out early &8212; and he can leave the job on his own terms, a right the departing chief has earned through his years of service to the city.

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But in truth, it would have been difficult for the city council to make a bad decision in this instance. The four reported candidates for interim chief were Williams, Tommy Johnson, Tim Soronen and Brady Tew.

All four are sergeants in the department, and all four are experienced officers who offer strong leadership and ability.

When it came down to voting, council member Thomas Moore was the lone opposition vote against Williams for interim chief. But Moore was quick to point out that his vote was not really against Williams. Moore had proposed Johnson as interim chief, and he kept that support throughout the nomination and voting process.

Where the council got things wrong this week was two 8 a.m. meetings that essentially closed the council&8217;s proceedings to the general public.

In the first meeting, council member Melvin Yelverton blocked a move to go into executive session without the entire council present. The full council met Wednesday morning.

While the work to discuss candidates for an interim police chief was rightly done in executive session, the city council should have been more circumspect in its planning a pair of meetings at 8 a.m. &8212; a time when most interested constituents are already at work or trying to get there. The move made some wonder why the council wanted to effectively act in secret.

With better planning, the council could have avoided that damaging perception &8212; and as we all know, in politics, perception is reality. The reality right now is the council came up with a good result in the promotion of Tim Williams. But they way they got to that decision was one which was questionable.