Earle hires new police chief

Mayor, council deny reinstatement for former chief

By Mark Randall news@theeveningtimes.com

Earle has a new police chief, but could be facing a lawsuit by the former chief. Mayor Carolyn Jones announced at the city council meeting that she had named Mary Rowland as the new chief. “I have been talking to her for several months. I think she will do a good job,” Jones said. “She is very conscientious and very smart. And she knows her job. So I thought she would be the best person.” Jones made the announcement after Councilwoman Jimmie Barham asked about a letter the city received from Smith’s attorney asking that the former chief be reinstated, and threatening a lawsuit if they didn’t comply. Attorney Robert Kinchen of Helena-West Helena wrote “This letter is to request the reinstatement of Tyrone Smith to the position of Chief of Police. It is also to advise that the attached complaint will be filed if Chief Smith is not reinstated immediately to his former position.” Barham asked Jones why the matter wasn’t placed on this month’s council agenda. “The letter was dated Nov. 18. He wasn’t on the agenda. I want to know why because that letter specifically says to each one of us from his lawyer,” Barham said. Jones said she would not reinstate Chief Smith. “I already have appointed an interim chief,” Jones said. “I can’t make him chief. I have one.” “I’m not questioning that,” Barham responded. “I’m just concerned about that letter from the lawyer. He was making a plea to be on this and he is not on the agenda.” Jones said she was advised by city attorney Davis Loftin not to respond. “As far as lawyers, this is not a courtroom. This is a city council room,” Jones said. “So why would we turn it into a courtroom? Mr. Loftin told me not to. If he wants to come and talk to me or you all, fine. But we don’t need all these courtroom antics.” Smith was suspended in August for 30 days pending the outcome of charges against him for harassment. Smith has contended that Jones knew about the charges back in June and only suspended him because he attempted to fire Officer Fitzgerald Couch who was caught sleeping on duty. The case against Smith has since been dismissed. Councilman Donnie Cheers made a motion to reinstate Smith with a roll call vote, which Jones tried to quash. “You can’t do that,” Jones said. “You can’t make a motion to reinstate. I’ve already hired a chief.” “All I ask is that you carry my motion like any other motion,” Cheers said. Jones pointed out that the city council does not have the power to hire or fire. Under Arkansas law, a mayor does the hiring and firing. The city council can, however, override a mayor’s decision with a majority vote. “It’s not your right to hire and fire,” Jones said. “I’ve hired her. And there are going to be some more changes. Look at your Municipal League (hand)book. You don’t vote on that. I hire and fire. You are stepping out of your lane. Read your handbook.” Cheers’s motion was seconded by Councilman Kenneth Cross, but failed on a 4-3-1 vote. Cheers and Councilmen Robert Malone, Sarah Johnson, and Cross voted yes. Barham and Councilmen Charlie Young and Jesse Selvy passed. Councilman Bobby Luckett refused to vote. “I don’t want to get into hiring and firing,” Selvy said. Rowland said she would do her best to run the department in whatever time she is given, then took a shot at the media for casting the city in a bad light. “My best interests will be the citizens of Earle as well as the officers,” Rowland said. “I would like to say this. It would be nice if we could stop being downgraded in the newspaper all the time and being beaten down constantly. We are doing our job and it would be nice if we could have a little encouragement.”

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