The City of Smithville is in the hunt for a new Chief of Police.
The aldermen voted 4-0 Monday night to accept applications for the position left vacant after the termination of Randy Caplinger earlier this year.
Aldermen Danny Washer, Josh Miller, Jason Murphy, and Shawn Jacobs all voted in favor. Alderman Gayla Hendrix was absent.
Although Caplinger has a lawsuit against the city still pending in court in which a judge could order his reinstatement as Chief, Mayor Jimmy Poss said he believes it's time the city moves forward.
"I just feel like it's time we do something to address this problem. These guys (police officers) have been doing a wonderful job. (Captain) Steven Leffew has (good job). But I think it's time we carried it a little further," he said.
Aldermen Jacobs and Miller, while voting in favor of taking applications, still expressed reservations with an active lawsuit against the city.
"Mr. Parsley what is the status of the lawsuit?" asked Alderman Jacobs.
"We've got a hearing set in October. Briefs have been submitted and we'll be doing oral arguments that day," replied City Attorney Vester Parsley.
"Correct me if I'm wrong but there is the chance that we could be ordered to re-instate Mr. Caplinger?" Jacobs asked.
"I think that is a possibility but I have no way of knowing. Anything is a possibility right now," Parsley responded.
" I agree I believe we do need to move forward. I'm just concerned we have jumped the gun and perhaps could cost the city some money and also make ourselves look bad if we hired somebody and then we are ordered to reinstate Mr. Caplinger," said Jacobs.
Alderman Miller asked Mayor Poss how long the city should advertise.
"That's what we were wanting to bring up and see how long you wanted to advertise it. It might be a while before you even hire somebody," answered Mayor Poss.
"Mr. Parsley, will they make a ruling in October?" asked Miller
"I don't know. It's up to the judge. The judge can defer that and study the issue and make the decision later or the judge could make a decision that day. If I were guessing I'd say there probably wouldn't be a decision made that day. Usually the judge wants to hear those arguments and not make a rash decision. I would say they wouldn't keep that decision for a long time," said Parsley.
Alderman Miller said if the city names a Chief he would rather it be on an interim basis until Caplinger's lawsuit is settled. "Again I would ask the board if you want to put a new chief in place, I would love to see him be named interim until the lawsuit is settled. I just don't want to see more trouble on the horizon," said Miller
"I don't think you would get anybody that would do it interim. They wouldn't have a guarantee of a job," Mayor Poss replied.
Alderman Jason Murphy agreed with the mayor. "The only reservation I have about designating somebody interim is would anyone apply for the job if they knew in six months they may not be able to keep it? I think that would hurt the people who apply for it. I think it would limit the number of people (applicants)," said Murphy.
The police chief prior to Caplinger, Richard Jennings had also been terminated, yet the city hired Caplinger while Jennings' case still lingered in court. Alderman Danny Washer said he saw no reason why the city could not move forward in this case in the same manner.
"This is not the first time this has happened. What have we done in the past?" asked Washer
"In the past we took applications and then did interviews and hired a chief. The case (Jennings lawsuit) previous to Chief Caplinger's went on for over a year ," replied City Attorney Parsley.
"We didn't have a problem with it the first time so why do we have a problem advertising for it now? We're going to have to have a chief. This (Caplinger lawsuit) could go on for a year or two years," said Washer.
"There could be an appeal if it goes against Mr. Caplinger or if it went against the city. Obviously we have the right to appeal. If it goes up to the Court of Appeals you're talking about many more months. Probably up to twelve to eighteen months. I'm not saying anyone will appeal. I'm saying both sides have the right to appeal," said Parsley.
"Are we willing to wait that long to get a chief? We've been fortunate. Like everybody has said the boys (police officers) have done a great job. I have no complaints. The only thing I have heard is that it's time to get one (Chief). I make a motion that we advertise and see what we get and go from there," said Washer
Alderman Miller offered a second to the motion.