A fourteen year veteran of the Smithville Police Department is being promoted.
The Smithville Aldermen Monday night voted 5-0 to promote Lieutenant Steven Leffew to the rank of Captain.
The recommendation was made by Alderman and Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks and Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger.
In making the recommendation, Meeks said "all of you are very familiar with Lieutenant Leffew and the work he has done over the years. I believe he has been with us for fourteen years. On two separate occasions, he has acted for us in the position of "officer-in-charge" of the police department and did an admirable job in both instances. I had the opportunity to work with Lieutenant Leffew the last time he was "officer-in-charge" and saw what he actually got done. You wouldn't believe the pile of trash beside the police department that they took out from back there. I commend all of the officers for that work. But I also commend Lieutenant Leffew for being available, ready, and willing to work for us at any time. I've never heard him complain, grumble, or gripe about having to do anything. He's done an outstanding job and we would like to promote Lieutenant Leffew to Captain."
Chief Caplinger added that "Lieutenant Leffew has truly been my right hand since I've been here. I've known Steven since he went to work as a police officer. I was stationed here as a trooper. I've never had any problem out of him. He's been admirable over these years. He's been professional. Steven has been to some of the classes where a lot of people hasn't been. He's well trained. One of the most elite classes in the United States for a police officer is the Police Staff and Command from Northwestern University. That's a highly sought after position. It's a school that not everyone can get into. It's important enough that it was nine months long when it was first offered and Steven completed that. He did it admirably. He is certified as a meth clandestine lab technician. He's a certified training officer, certified chemical weapons instructor, certified defensive tactics instructor and he has served twice as an interim chief and did an admirable job. I couldn't ask for anyone to be more deserving of this position and I would ask for your vote and support to promote him to captain for the Smithville Police Department."
Mayor Taft Hendrixson also praised Lieutenant Leffew. "He's a big help to everyone here. You can ask him for anything and he'll try to do it for you. He never complains. I would recommend that this happen also myself."
Meanwhile, he gets to keep his job, but city secretary-treasurer Hunter Hendrixson will have to serve out a five day suspension without pay for allegedly "deliberately falsifying city records" in violation of city rules of conduct based on findings in a recent state audit.
Click here to read state audit report
The Smithville aldermen Monday night voted 3 to 2 to impose the suspension, based upon a recommendation of city attorney Vester Parsley, Jr., which will begin at the discretion of Mayor Taft Hendrixson. Aldermen Aaron Meeks, Shawn Jacobs, and Cecil Burger voted for the suspension but Alderman Stephen White and W.J. (Dub) White voted against the suspension because they wanted to fire Hendrixson.
Prior to the vote on the suspension, Alderman Stephen White made a motion to dismiss Hunter Hendrixson. Alderman W.J. (Dub) White seconded the motion but Aldermen Meeks, Jacobs and Burger voted against firing him so White's motion failed on a 2 to 3 vote.
City attorney Parsley explained to the aldermen earlier in the discussions Monday night that according to city ordinances regarding rules of conduct, Hunter Hendrixson could receive a suspension without pay for three or five days or even some other punishment based on the violations. Parsley recommended that the board go with either a three or five day suspension in this case. According to the ordinance, if the mayor investigates and determines that there is some merit to the allegations, he has an obligation to bring it to the entire board of alderman and to give notice to the secretary-treasurer of the allegations (state audit findings). Mayor Hendrixson apparently met that requirement of the ordinance and notified Hendrixson and members of the board.
In the letter to Hunter Hendrixson, Mayor Hendrixson wrote that "I have determined that it appears you may have violated the City of Smithville rules of conduct by deliberately falsifying city records and there has been an intentional deviation from established work procedures without authorization in that you signed my name to a check dated April 17th, 2010 without my permission, also you made certain payments to Smithville Golf Management and an insurance company without authorization and failed to bill Smithville Golf Management for water usage from September 2008 through July, 2010, all of the above without authorization from myself or the Board of Aldermen. You shall be awarded the opportunity to present your position in this matter. You may have an attorney present to represent you. This matter will be placed on the agenda for the regular board meeting to be held on February 7th at 7:00 p.m. at its regular meeting place."
City attorney Parsley said while these allegations may have amounted to a violation of protocol, there was no criminal activity in that "there was no benefit to Hunter" in his actions.
However, Alderman Stephen White suggested that Hendrixson has overstepped his authority on more than one occasion and that he should be held accountable. He also stressed that the city charter, which supercedes city ordinances, provides for termination in the case of "insubordination". "There are more than just two incidents where this has happened. The insubordination of carrying out the board's wishes and policies is something that has taken place again and again over these years. I don't know how many times we have heard Hunter say "I took it upon myself". He's taken a lot of these things and made them his decision and acted outside his authority."
White continued, "The board voted to enter into a contract with Smithville Golf Course Management contingent that they retain a $10,000 deposit. But that was never secured. You (Hunter) and the mayor signed the contract with them but it wasn't supposed to be signed until that was secured. Then, in just a very short time, You (Hunter) were writing checks and the residents of Smithville were paying bills for this group of people (Smithville Golf Management). That was not the city's responsibility. You (Hunter) was paying insurances, paying fees for permits, and all these other things, reimbursements for this and for that. Then by your (Hunter's) own admission, you (Hunter) took it upon yourself again to take their water meter off of the billing cycle. You (Hunter) say it was just an oversight but it kept happening with this one group of people. You said you weren't hiding anything but you never did bring it to the board over this two year period. You never mentioned it to any of us. You hid it from myself, the mayor, and the rest of the board by just signing checks with just your signature on them. You knew you were doing wrong and you were covering up. You even forged the mayor's signature on one of them. I don't see but one action to take. I'm going to move that we dismiss you."
In his defense, Hendrixson explained his actions, but also apologized to the board and vowed that this would never happen again."I was approached by Farron (Hendrix) before the pool opened. I don't know the exact date. But they were ready to turn it in (give up the lease). It's no secret that there is political bad blood between some people and the guys who worked over there (golf course). I found myself in a position, do we want the pool maybe to not even open and for the golf course to close? Their insurance had been dropped and they (golf course tenants) came to me about a week or week and a half before the pool was to be opened. They weren't going to open it because they couldn't find anybody to cover the insurance. I took matters into my own hands. That's what I did. I should have come to the board but I found myself between a rock and a hard place and I've owned up to it. There was nothing malicious. There was nothing of personal gain. I just tried to keep it going. I knew they were probably going to turn in their lease. I just wanted to get through the pool season. That's basically what it was. I did what I did. I did it the wrong way. I chose the wrong avenue to follow to get it done instead of coming to the board. I've not helped out any other businesses. I've manned up to this. If there's going to be a reprimand, I want to close this out tonight. I want to get some closure and move on. It's been lingering for six months. Trust me, it'll never happen again. I don't want to be in this situation again. I'm just ready to move on and take my medicine. You have my promise that it won't happen again and I apologize."
Alderman Shawn Jacobs told Hunter that he was not being singled out when the board sought the state audit, but added that based on the findings, Hunter should have known what he did was wrong in regard to the golf course lease. "You were not singled out as a focus of this, Hunter. We had some serious concerns about several things going on financially, some of which may or may not have involved you at all. I'm sorry if you felt singled out because you were not the focus of this. It was certainly not a witch hunt. But we felt like we had seen enough and I quite frankly had some serious reservations about some of the recommendations of one of our auditors. That's another reason we had this audit. We had some people in the audience question the advice of one of our financial people. One of our contract people. We wanted to make sure that we had a good handle on the city's finances and to make sure that there wasn't other fudging going on in other places that had nothing to do with the golf course. I assure you it was not my intent nor do I think it was anybody on this board's intent to single you out. Having said that, I think you had to know you were violating the terms of the lease. You had to know that this was wrong and you violated the trust of the board. That's something I think you're going to have to earn back. I appreciate your being forthright. You've been a lot of help to me. I've been new on the board. I've been pleased with your performance but again I think this is a situation where we wanted to make sure we did what was right toward you and anybody else and for the City of Smithville. We had a responsibility but we wanted to make sure we had all the facts."
Tony Poss addressed the mayor and aldermen Monday night concerning the golf course. "I'm requesting your permission to use the golf course, if it's open this spring. We've had several calls about our youth golf league. We want to have sign ups on March 5th & 12th. We want to see if we can use the driving range and possibly the pro shop to do sign ups if it's available. We're just wanting to see if we can be on the property."
Alderman Aaron Meeks suggested that a decision on Poss' request be delayed until the city decides on what to do about the operation of the golf course. Meeks also called for a workshop to review the three proposals that have been submitted. "I think we should decide what we're going to do on whoever is going to be in charge of it before we give anybody permission to use it. I'm not trying to put Tony off or to delay anything but I don't want to get the cart before the horse either."
Meeks continued "As I understand it right now, there have actually been three proposals to operate the golf course. I believe the Smithville Golf Course Management had given us a proposal. Tony Poss had given us a proposal. And now we have a new proposal. I would suggest if it was agreeable with all the other members that we have a workshop as quickly as possible and choose one of the three or some other alternative to get the golf course open and running. This needs to be done as quickly as possible since the golfing season will be upon us quickly."
The aldermen agreed to have the workshop Thursday night, February 10th at 7:00 p.m. at city hall. A special meeting may also be held within the next two weeks to make a final decision on the operation of the golf course this season.