Tom Stufano is the Smithville Police Chief again.
Mayor Taft Hendrixson has vetoed the city council's 3 to 1 vote Monday night to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay, pending an investigation of allegations of wrong doing in a pending lawsuit, filed by an attorney for Roy Ray.
In a letter to City Attorney John Pryor dated Wednesday, July 18th , Mayor Hendrixson wrote " I believe the action taken by this Board could be potential exposure to future litigation and I think any action of administrative leave for Chief Stufano is premature."
"I hereby veto the action by the Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen made on July 16th placing Chief Thomas J. Stufano on administrative leave."
"Therefore, Chief Stufano is still Chief of the Smithville Police Department until such time as my veto is overridden by a two thirds majority vote of the entire Board, at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen."
Smithville Alderman Tonya Sullivan, in a prepared response to the mayor's veto, wrote " I received a notification of a veto from Mayor Taft Hendrixson on Friday regarding Chief Stufano's administrative leave. I felt that it was necessary for Chief Stufano to be on paid administrative leave in order to protect him and clear his name and to be fair to Mr. Roy Ray. The allegations were taken serious Monday at the council meeting and so was protecting our city employee. A TBI investigation I felt was the quickest way to get this matter resolved."
Sullivan further stated "The veto by the Mayor doesn't suggest that this was not an appropriate way to handle this. The Mayor's reasons for the veto were 'out of fear of future litigation'. I respect the Mayor's position and I know that myself as well as the other aldermen are willing to work together to resolve tough isses as they happen. I want what is in the best interest of our city employees and the citizens of Smithville."
In order to override a mayoral veto, at least four members of the five member board would have to vote for the override, otherwise, the mayor's veto is sustained.
Mayor Hendrixson met with members of the local media Friday afternoon in his office to publicly announce his decision.
Hendrixson, when asked if he has received any public response from Monday night's vote by the council, stated that he has received numerous comments, both in person and on the phone, expressing support for Stufano.
Mayor Hendrixson says he believes Stufano has done a good job as Police Chief and that he and the department have been active in making drug arrests and addressing other crime concerns.
Alderman Jerry Hutchins' Sr. made the motion Monday night to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of an independent investigation, based on complaints made by Roy Ray filed in a federal court lawsuit against Chief Stufano, the Smithville Police Department, and the City of Smithville.
Ray claims he suffered injuries and that his civil and constitutional rights were violated during a misdemeanor traffic stop in February.
Ray's attorney in the lawsuit, Adam Wilding Parrish of Lebanon, came before the Mayor and Aldermen Monday night requesting the investigation of Stufano.
Aldermen Willie Thomas and Tonya Sullivan joined Hutchins in voting for the suspension, however Alderman Steve White voted against it, until City Attorney John Pryor had more time to research the city's options in dealing with the issue. Alderman Cecil Burger was out of town and could not attend the meeting.
The senior ranking officer, Richard Jennings, became acting chief, until the mayor's veto.
Section 6, paragraph 3 of the City Charter states that "He (Mayor) shall have veto power over any action of the Board, except as hereinafter provided, giving his reasons therefore in writing, with the exception of the hiring policy as set out in SECTION 5, Paragraph 2; but the Board may, by a two thirds vote of the entire membership of said Board, pass the same over his veto; or if he fails to return the same on or before the next meeting of said Board, he shall be deemed to have approved the same and the same shall become a law without such approval; and each and every law, ordinance, resolution or vote, except on the question of adjournment, shall require the approval of the Mayor before it shall become effective, except as herein before provided."
Section 5, Paragraph 2 of the City Charter states that "All employees or appointed officials of the City, including, but not limited to, the Chief of Police, the City Bookkeeper, the City Attorney, the Judicial Commissioner of the City, and the Secretary-Treasurer of the City shall be employed by a majority vote of the Aldermen of said City, and in case of a tie vote of said Aldermen in this and any other question voted on by said Aldermen, the Mayor shall have the power and it is hereby declared to be his duty to cast the deciding vote in such election. It shall also become the duty of said Board to fix by ordinance the salaries of all employees and officials employed by the City. No employees or official can be discharged except for "cause". The Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Smithville, shall enact such ordinance or ordinances as are necessary in order to define "cause", and distribute same to all employees and officials of the City. Said ordinance or ordinances shall comply with the due process requirements of both the federal and state constitutions. All employees and appointed officials of the City shall be rehired and or reappointed each year absent their discharge for "cause" as referred to herein."