Archive for Wednesday, May 28, 2008

McLouth residents sound off on Burns’ suspension

May 28, 2008

Mayor Mike Graveman's lips were sealed at the March 18 McLouth City Council meeting when it came to police chief Tom Burns.

However, residents were not silent on the issue of the longtime chief's sudden suspension by Graveman.

The mayor placed Burns on a four-day suspension for unspecified reasons. The suspension was supposed to end March 17.

However, at the March 18 city council meeting, which was moved to the city's fire station from city hall because of the number of people in attendance, Burns was not back on the job.

Roughly 25 people were in attendance, with a few speaking during the meeting demanding to know why Burns was put on suspension. Others spoke about Burns, saying he's an integral part of the community.

Graveman declined to speak about the situation, citing it as a personnel matter and he was unable to speak in any capacity.

Rev. Scott Berry of First Baptist Church of McLouth was in attendance. During open agenda, he spoke about working as a volunteer chaplain with Burns in law enforcement when there have been tragedies. Burns, said Berry, "knows his stuff and knows the people. He knows how to deal with people in the right way."

Berry went on to say: "I just think he's a jewel. Whatever happens, I hope you can find a way to retain that jewel, to not lose that because I think he's a very important part of our town."

Berry's remarks drew applause from the audience.

Earlier in open agenda, resident Barbara Hasemeier told the council of her issues with its decision.

"I think what you guys did was a sin and I'd like to call for your resignation," Hasemeier said.

The council listened to several residents' thoughts on the issue, many of which surrounded the secrecy of the suspension and that the public has a right to know why Burns was put on suspension. However, Graveman continued to tell residents that he could not discuss the situation because it involved personnel and was a privacy issue.

Burns was in attendance and was in his police uniform. However, when the agenda item of police chief came up at the meeting, Graveman addressed Danny Ruff, who was appointed to serve as interim chief during the suspension. Ruff works part-time with the McLouth department and also is a Tonganoxie officer.

The future of Wade Noll, a part-time officer in McLouth who also works at the Jefferson County Jail, is in question. Graveman said March 14 that Noll no longer was working for the McLouth department.

However, Michael Hayes, a Jefferson County attorney who also is representing both Burns and Noll, said there's been no documentation to indicate Noll's status with the department.

During Monday's meeting, Hayes gave Graveman the resignations of three part-time officers that had been submitted to Burns: Kevin Kufahl, Sharon Hoffman and Rick Hamm. Burns then spoke to say that Travis Adams also was resigning. However, Adams was in attendance and said that was incorrect.

"Don't bring me into this," Adams said.

Burns then apologized for the misunderstanding.

After its regular session, the council went into executive session for 30 minutes to discuss attorney-client privilege.

When they came out of the private session, no action was taken and the meeting was adjourned. Council member Myra Harwood was not at the council meeting.

After the meeting, when asked about the resignations, Graveman said he felt confident that McLouth would continue to have adequate police protection.

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