Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss has fired Police Chief Randy Caplinger and cites eight reasons for the termination.
In a letter to Caplinger dated March 19, Mayor Poss wrote that "Your actions and performance has had a negative impact on the Smithville Police Department since I was first elected Mayor in 2012 and can no longer be tolerated. I have lost confidence in your ability to lead the Smithville Police Department in a positive direction. As a result, your employment as Smithville Police Chief is being terminated immediately".
Caplinger's attorney Sarah Cripps has answered the Mayor's letter with one of her own requesting a hearing. "Chief Caplinger categorically denies all allegations contained in your March 19 correspondence and respectfully requests that he be afforded a full and fair due process hearing before the three-person board or commission and, in the event of an adverse ruling against him, before a plenary session of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen."
(READ ATTORNEY SARAH CRIPPS' ENTIRE LETTER TO MAYOR POSS BY CLICKING PDF LINK BELOW)
1687_001.pdf (171.68 KB)
Cripps contends that Chief Caplinger is not an "at will" employee as city officials claim; that he can only be terminated for "just cause"; and that he shall only be removed by the mayor with the approval of at least two thirds (not less than four members) majority vote of the council present and voting upon the removal according to the Smithville City Charter.
(VIEW VIDEO BELOW OF SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING HELD ON TUESDAY, MARCH 17)
The mayor placed Chief Caplinger on suspension without pay pending termination on Friday, March 13 and his decision to terminate Caplinger was expected after Cripps announced last Tuesday during a special meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen that the chief would not resign or accept a severance package.
Reasons for the termination cited by the mayor include the following:
*Lack of leadership and loss of morale by your officers
The Mayor claims a majority of the police officers have expressed disappointment in the direction of the department.
*Inability to work with other law enforcement agencies
Poss said other law enforcement agencies have complained about Caplinger’s inability to work effectively with them whether it be on investigations or on on-going cases.
*Violation of Smithville Personnel Policies Section X (A) (1), which deals primarily with verbal harassment. Reportedly, Caplinger is accused of verbally intimidating his officers.
*Violation of Smithville Personnel Policies Section IX (I) (Misuse of City Property)
It is alleged Caplinger used City Hall to teach gun permit classes without paying the required rental deposit for the facility.
*Violation of Smithville Personnel Policies Section IV (M) (Outside Employment)
The mayor claims Caplinger continues to be on the payroll of a private company (Smithport Cabinetry) and has an office at that company, a violation of city policy unless approved
The mayor alleges there were twenty seven “unaccounted for work days” during the first 10 months of 2014 and data from the E-911 office showed there were “62 work days without going ‘out of service and 10 days without going ‘in service. Also, a two month video audit of city hall from January and February 2015 showed that Mr. Caplinger was at city hall less than 20 hours a week on average.
*Misuse of the Confidential Drug Fund Debit Card
Poss also alleges Caplinger used a Drug Fund debit card to make personal purchases on two occasions but goes on to say both times the city was reimbursed and the chief claimed use of the card was “by mistake.”
*Non-Use of the two U.S. Military Surplus issued Humvees
The mayor says in his letter to Caplinger that “Since my term in office I have repeatedly asked you to put these two vehicles in service and to this date nothing has come of my requests.”
"I have been approached by a majority of your police officers since I was first elected about the lack of leadership in their department and I feel that your extreme absenteeism and lack of effort to better your department has resulted in low morale under your leadership. Your officers have expressed to me numerous times that they feel the department would be better under new leadership," wrote Mayor Poss in his letter to Caplinger.
The mayor goes on to say in his letter that, "As a result of these above mentioned issues and many more not listed here I have lost confidence in your ability to lead the Smithville Police Department in a positive direction. As a result, your employment as Smithville Police Chief is being terminated immediately".
"Pursuant to the Smithville Personnel Policy Section IX (K) you have the right to a termination hearing if you feel you have been terminated illegally or unethically by submitting in writing a request for a hearing to the Mayor within seven business days of this notice. I, Mayor Poss, will have five business days to decide if your request should go before the full Board of Aldermen at the next Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting for a hearing unless a special called meeting is scheduled," Mayor Poss' letter concluded.
In her response to the Mayor, Cripps pointed out that Chief Caplinger has never been reprimanded or disciplined for any reason during his employment with the city. "Chief Caplinger's counsel have conducted an exhaustive review of his personnel file tendered to us by City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson on the afternoon of Monday, March 23. Significantly, the personnel file of Chief Caplinger is replete with certificates of commendation issued to him during his thirty year tenure with the State of Tennessee as a law enforcement officer with the Tennessee Department of Revenue and subsequently with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. It is noteworthy that a thorough and exhaustive review of Chief Caplinger's personnel file reveals that from May 3, 2010 until Chief Caplinger's summary suspension without pay on March 13, 2015, he has never been the subject of any disciplinary action instituted by the City of Smithville and has never been issued any written reprimands by any officials with the City of Smithville."
City Attorney Vester Parsley has recommended that Mayor Poss grant Chief Caplinger a hearing.