By Marlana Ward
Concerns about staffing shortages with the Mountain City Police Department were once again addressed during the December meeting of the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The town had hoped its lack of officers had been solved with the recent hiring and training of two new officers, but the departure of one of those new officers to another law enforcement agency has left the department seeking help once again.
Mayor Kevin Parsons raised the staffing issue as an agenda item.
“Item number three is to accept the resignation of Charles Richard Norris and discussion concerning his employment contract,” Parsons began. “My feelings on this is that, based on what he signed, he should receive a bill for the school fees, his travel expenses, the hotel expenses, his meals, along with his pay during the school that we sent him to.”
“The contract says that he will, if he voluntarily leaves his position as law enforcement officer prior to two years, reimburse the Town of Mountain City for any and all sums of money expended by the Town of Mountain City for his or her training, certification, uniform, and equipment,” explained City Attorney George Wright.
City Recorder Sheila Shaw shared the amount she had calculated for the accrued expenses, “I got an amount together after I talked to Denver about it and I called the city attorney and asked him about it, and I let Mr. Norris know what that amount was. The amount was $5,242.30.”
The discussion went on between the board members as to the proper ways to collect the amount owed to the town. All members hoped that the situation is resolved without involving the court system as Norris had expressed a willingness to pay to Shaw, but the possibility of pursuing collection through the
courts if necessary was also discussed.
After a course of action concerning this particular employment contract was agreed upon, Aldermen Lawrence Keeble asked if the town could find ways to further dissuade officers from leaving the police department for employment at other local agencies. “Is it worth any further thinking about some kind of agreement between the city and the county,” he asked.
“I don’t think either party is going to want to be handcuffed regarding who they can hire and not hire,” responded Wright.
“In the past, it has run both ways,” Chief Church added. “We’ve hired from there, and they’ve hired from here.”
Alderman Keeble also asked about changes to the town’s contracts to increase penalties for leaving. “Is there any way to strengthen the contract that we just reviewed that this resigning officer had? Is there any way to add more teeth to it?”
“We can put in that if the town has to go to court, he will be responsible for the town’s attorney fees in addition to court’s costs,” Wright answered.
Vice Mayor Jerry Jordan voiced that this condition should be added to the contract and he made the motion for the addition of attorney fees be added to future contracts entered into by new officers. The motion carried unanimously.