Archive for Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Council changes police status

July 25, 2007

Pretty soon Tonganoxie police officers won't have to wait until May to know if they are going to have a job for the next year.

The Tonganoxie City Council on Monday unanimously approved a charter ordinance that will make the police officers full city employees, with their employment no longer based on annual appointments.

"First of all it will give the officers the feeling of job security," said Police Chief Kenneth Carpenter, who came to the council meeting to answer any questions. "Right now they are appointed officials, and yearly the mayor can or cannot appoint people with little recourse."

Under the current ordinance, Class III cities like Tonganoxie must have their officers appointed by the mayor, but Monday's vote would change the employment status of these officers. Such appointments traditionally have been made in May in Tonganoxie.

Mayor Mike Vestal said he wasn't sure why previous mayors never chose to adopt a similar ordinance, but he speculated they may have just wanted to keep ahold of that power.

"I didn't want that responsibility," Vestal said. "Some politicians would single out police officers not to be appointed."

On top of giving the officers job security, the new employment status would give Carpenter more authority to exercise discipline with officers without getting the council involved. But it would also give the officers a venue to appeal any kind of disciplinary action, since they could appeal to the council.

"Right now discipline has to be handed out by the mayor or council, so if somebody is disciplined, there really is not appeal process built in because the final people are making the initial call," Carpenter said. "I don't want to come to the mayor and council every time an employee is late for work."

The council agreed it would be better for the officers to have a secure job and for the chief to be able to have more disciplinary responsibilities.

"I'm always going to be in favor of department heads that are working with the individuals on a daily basis being their supervisor and making decisions on employment. I don't want to be that person, " said Council President Jason Ward.

For now, officers will have to wait for the ordinance to be published and for a 60-day petition process to end before the ordinance will take place. Carpenter also will have to wait until the mayor and council revise the city's personnel policy, which Vestal said does not match city code, before the chief is given any more authority.

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