Council discusses PD firing

Published 12:44 am Saturday, November 21, 2009

A standing-room-only crowd at the Demopolis City Council meeting on Thursday came in support of terminated police officer Tommy Johnson, but the people on hand made no reaction when they heard that his reinstatement was not going to happen.

At the beginning of the meeting, District 2 representative Mitchell Congress proposed an addition to the agenda that would allow Tameka Alvis to present a petition to the council to reinstate Johnson. Congress’s motion to do so was voted down 3-3, with mayor Mike Grayson, Jack Cooley and Bill Meador voting against the motion and Congress, Thomas Moore and Melvin Yelverton voting for it.

Near the end of the meeting, at a time set for council members to discuss topics not on the agenda, Congress asked why there was not going to be a hearing regarding Johnson, and Grayson responded that there needed to be an appeal to the personnel committee.

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Congress responded that city policy states that DPD chief Tommie Reese could not terminate Johnson without permission from the personnel committee, which Congress said was not granted.

“It is my suggestion that this was not done procedurally and properly, and that Tommy Johnson be reinstated as sergeant with back pay until the personnel committee gives Chief Reese permission to take an action,” Congress said. “I think that action should have to follow our grievance policy procedure and go down the line with a reprimand and follow our procedure for the City of Demopolis. If the council wishes to go into executive session to discuss that, I certainly make a motion to go into executive session.”

The council went into executive session for about 35 minutes. When it came out and resumed regular session, Congress made a motion to reinstate Johnson, but that motion failed for the lack of a second.

City attorney Richard S. Manley told the audience that the action taken against Johnson followed an investigation by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

“When the issue came up that is involving Officer Johnson and the chief of police found out about what he had heard, he requested the Alabama Bureau of Investigation in Montgomery, Ala., to make an investigation,” Manley said, holding a manila package in his hand. “Based on that investigation — and this is a copy of it; it’s been delivered to me; it’s about 40 pages and four CDs — he made the decision to suspend him.

“This is now going to be given to the council for them to look at, and given to counsel for Mr. Johnson. I just wanted to say that so you understand that this wasn’t something that was done by the committee or the council. This wasn’t done by chief of police Reese. He acted on this document.”

Manley added that, to his knowledge, the ABI investigation of Johnson had been completed.

After the meeting, Grayson said the city’s policy states that, to terminate an employee, a department head will discuss the charges with the personnel committee. The committee then votes for or against termination of the employee in question. That employee has the right to file a grievance and appeal.