Jasper mayor, police chief clash over proposed officer hire

Jasper mayor, police chief clash over proposed officer hire

December 17th, 2017 by Ryan Lewis in Local Regional News
Jasper Alderman Paul West

Jasper Alderman Paul West

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Jasper Mayor Paul Evans

Jasper Mayor Paul Evans

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. — When Police Chief Billy Mason recommended hiring a new police officer to the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen last week, Mayor Paul Evans refused to endorse it because he wasn't part of the interview process.

At the board's December meeting, Mason said five people applied for the position, and he and Lt. Scott Evans, the mayor's son, interviewed three of them.

Mason wanted the board to hire Brian Davis for the job because "he was the best fit for our police department."

"This is the first time that I've seen this application, and if the board wants to vote on it, they can," Mayor Evans said. "I haven't seen the application, [I] wasn't part of the process of interviewing, so I'm not going to recommend it."

Alderman Paul "Mac" Bumpus asked if the hire could be delayed for one month.

"We're shorthanded," Evans told him. "We have been shorthanded for about a month."

He said the board could delay the decision until January or recess the meeting so the board could "address it."

"We have a process, and I think we're obligated to follow through on that process," Evans said.

The board voted 4-1 to recess the meeting so its members could interview the final three applicants.

Alderman Paul West, who cast the lone dissenting vote, questioned if there was a written policy concerning the board's involvement with interviews.

"I think sometimes we're not trusting department heads," he said. "The board needs to stay out of some things and leave it to department heads."

Evans said he had sat in on every prospective employee interview since he became mayor, and that his frustration with being left out of the "process" was "not going against the department head."

"If we [the board] let every department go out here and start hiring who they want, next thing you know, we're not even going to know that they had an opening until it's filled," he said. "I'm not in favor of that."

City Attorney Mark Raines said Jasper's mayor doesn't exactly act as the sole chief executive officer of the town, although that position once did.

Years ago, he said city leaders enacted an ordinance to give the entire board the power to hire and fire employees, not just the mayor.

Mason said he didn't know the board had to sit in on interviews with prospective police officers.

"[The board] either hires them, or if I recommend firing them, [the board] fires them," he said. "I didn't know that [the board] had to be in the process of who I had to pick to work for my department, and who I'm going to be responsible for."

Evans said the board would always be involved in the process of hiring new employees.

"This board is going to be a part of it as long as I'm here," he said.

The board reconvened for a short meeting on Wednesday at 4:30 CDT to meet with the three finalists.

In the end, Mason's original recommendation to hire Davis was approved.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County.