King Council OKs detective changes after lengthy debate
by Meghann Evans
The King Police Department was the subject of yet another rousing debate Monday night as the King City Council discussed at length a proposed personnel policy amendment regarding detective classifications.
Three motions later, the council approved the proposal as originally presented.
At last month’s meeting, Police Chief Paula May said she had some internal applicants for a detective slot that had been vacant since early fall but that she was working with city staff to reclassify the position. City Manager John Cater explained the chief’s concern that with the current practice, if a patrol sergeant transfers to the Criminal Investigation Division as a starting detective, he or she could be downgraded a rank and pay grade. May suggested renaming the positions Detective I and Detective II instead of referring to them by corporal and sergeant titles so rank would not be lost. Such a proposal was brought before the council on Monday, and it also defined the specific duties of each position.
As explained Monday, research into prior pay studies and city council minutes did not reveal whether the CID positions in practice in the police department were ever formally established by the council. A pay study from 2000 found in the finance office listed detectives being under pay grade 12, but the minutes from 2000 did not reflect whether that pay study was the final version approved by the council. This caused confusion among the council members.
Council member Brian Carico wanted to know why the council was even discussing this topic. He said the department has filled positions several times, and this had not been an issue before. Chief May said the absence of documentation of the positions was discovered when she requested information from the city to answer employees’ questions. Carico asked why the council could not just make official what is already in practice.
At one point a former detective sitting in the crowd was even asked for input as the council tried to sort out how the detective positions had been defined and compensated in the past. Chief May was asked to read the job description she posted internally. The mayor called for a short recess as discussion began to get heated, allowing the finance director to retrieve the pay study and distribute it to council members.
Carico continued to grill May on why the topic was an issue “all of a sudden.” After banter back and forth between council members Carico and Wesley Carter, Mayor Jack Warren joked, “Y’all got me so confused I’m having a senior moment.”
“So officially there’s no official,” said Councilman Dillard Burnette of the lack of documentation.
After further debate, Carter made a motion that all CID positions be paid at a grade 12. This motion did not receive a second.
Carico made a motion to leave things as they are currently practiced. Burnette seconded the motion but Carter and Charles Allen tied things up by voting against it. The mayor thought for a minute before voting nay.
Burnette finally moved to approve the proposal in front of them. Allen seconded the motion. There was further discussion about the proposal. The vote was finally taken after the meeting had been underway for over an hour and a half, that topic having taken up most of that time. Carico opposed the motion, but it passed 3-1.
Military dog memorial approved
Earlier in the meeting, the council gave approval to Boy Scout Cody McBride with Troop 415 to construct a small memorial to honor military dogs at the King Veterans Memorial. McBride must get approval from the Boy Scout district before proceeding with his Eagle Scout project. He will hold a fundraiser to pay for the cost of the project.
A small granite marker will be placed to the side of the main memorial with an engraving about war dogs. McBride hopes to include paw print stepping stones leading up to the memorial and a concrete dog statue to mount behind the marker. After asking some questions, the council members voted unanimously to approve the project.
Also during the meeting:
• The council set a workshop to update the city’s personnel policy. The meeting will take place at King City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 10 a.m.
• A public hearing was set for the council’s Feb. 4 meeting. The public hearing will be for a proposed amendment to make the language regarding noisy dogs more consistent in the city code. Violation of the policy would be a criminal violation.
• The council approved a resolution opposing legislation that provides for the forced takeover of a city’s water system. It is anticipated that the General Assembly may consider legislation this year that would force the transfer of the City of Asheville’s water system to the Metropolitan Water District in that area. Fearing such legislation would set a dangerous precedent, the council gave unanimous support for the resolution and Burnette urged members of the crowd to write their representatives regarding the topic.
• Budget Amendment 2012-01.04 was approved, which included adjustments to cover a payment to NCDOT for a railroad crossing installed four years ago; overages on the power bill for the Veterans Memorial fountain that now runs more regularly; and $5,200 for an unanticipated extension of unemployment benefits for a former employee.
• Stephen James spoke during the public comment session of the meeting to ask about the status of the security cameras at the King Veterans Memorial. According to James, an anarchist symbol was put up at the flagpole in December and the security cameras were not working at the time. James said he and some veterans have been spending a lot of time at the memorial in hopes of preventing further crime. The mayor later asked Chief May about the cameras, and she said the police department is on top of the issue and that the specifics were not proper to address in open session since it is a security issue.
• Zollie Smith updated the council on plans for the fourth annual Feed Stokes 5K, set for Saturday, March 9 at 8:30 a.m. The 5K takes a path through downtown King, and this year the event will raise money for King Outreach Ministry and East Stokes Outreach Ministry. There will be chip timing this year to give serious runners an exact race time. The council agreed to be an event sponsor as in previous years.
• The council also agreed to co-sponsor a 5K race on Saturday, March 30 that will follow the same route. This race, organized by Amy Inman, will benefit Hospice and Palliative Care of Stokes County.
• The council was introduced to Justin Newsome, a new firefighter with the King Fire Department.
• Gerald Lawrence was appointed to the King Senior Services Advisory Board.
• Mayor Warren read a letter thanking city employee Ricky Lewis for helping return a lost wedding ring.
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