Board of aldermen defer motion to fire police chief
NATCHEZ — Following a specially called closed-door meeting of the Natchez Board of Aldermen Thursday morning, Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier made a motion to terminate Police Chief Daniel White, but the board ultimately deferred any action on the matter until Tuesday.
Frazier, who is chair of the city’s police committee, stated his motion as the city needing to “go in a different direction” with the police chief position.
White and the Natchez Police Department have faced increased scrutiny in recent months following a series of robberies, burglaries and other crimes that led to public complaints from residents at recent aldermen meetings.
After Frazier made the motion, Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said she thought the board needed more time to consider the matter and that White should be called in for a meeting with the board.
White was not present at Thursday’s meeting, and when reached for comment Thursday evening, said White said he had no comment about efforts to terminate him.
As Arceneaux-Mathis was speaking, New Hope the Vision Center the Rev. Stanley B. Searcy Sr., one of only three of four people in attendance at the meeting, approached a podium expressing interest in making a public comment. At the request of Arceneaux-Mathis, the board recognized Searcy and allowed him to speak.
Searcy said he was offended the discussion of the police chief was not open and involving the entire community.
Searcy noted it was the second time he had appeared before the board for such a matter.
Searcy addressed the board and Mayor Darryl Grennell during a November 2016 aldermen meeting following the suspension of Fire Chief Aaron Wesley. At that meeting, Searcy, who is black, accused Grennell, who is also black, of attempting to oust Wesley because Wesley is black.
Searcy was more pointed with his accusations Thursday, implying that Grennell had risen to the mayor’s seat with the help of white residents, with whom Grennell had made a deal to get rid of Wesley and White.
Searcy said that residents came to him prior to Grennell’s election with stories of the deal made regarding White and Wesley.
In what was at times a tense exchange, Grennell refuted Searcy’s claims, saying, “Whoever told you that told you a lie.”
“Whoever told you that and whatever political leader and community people came to you with that … they told you a lie,” Grennell said. “There was no agreement.”
Grennell said he had previously met personally with Searcy in the mayor’s office, and Searcy had then made accusations that Grennell was essentially a puppet being controlled.
After the meeting, Grennell said it is possible another political leader concocted the story of a deal to get rid of White and Wesley in an effort to sway public opinion against Grennell.
“I don’t care about your skin color,” he said. “I don’t care about your socioeconomic status or anything else. Since I’ve gotten here, I’ve been open-minded with every department head.
“I was elected mayor with 91 percent of the vote. I’m not the tool of white people or black people. I am my own man, and I believe in having the most competent person in every job, regardless of race. Sadly, Rev. Searcy believes that race is the only criterion for any job. Real leaders can’t afford to think that way.”Searcy said that White had been “set up for failure” because his department had faced cuts, officers were not adequately paid, among other claims.
“We shouldn’t try to push him out,” Searcy said. “If he wants to retire, give him the grace to retire.”
Grennell said after the meeting he had met with White on multiple occasions seeking to get a date White plans to retire.
Searcy said he is not against the city’s administration or the board and that if it were others being treated unfairly as he said White and Wesley have been treated, he would stand up for them as well.
“If it was you,” Searcy said to Grennell. “Or Billie Joe or anyone … if it was black or white or straight or gay, I would be standing for these issues.”
Frazier told Searcy that he appreciated his comments.
“I understand you’re very highly looked up to in this community, and I understand your concerns about the fire and police chief,” Frazier said. “I was against the mayor on the fire chief. … This is not all about crime. This is about a lack of discipline … something that has been going on for a long time.
“We are trying to move forward and rectify this situation.”
Ward 5 Alderman Benjamin Davis made a motion that passed to table the matter until Tuesday’s meeting, with Arceneaux-Mathis adding that White would be present for executive session discussion related to his job performance.
The aldermen are scheduled to meet Tuesday in the Natchez City Council Chambers, with the finance meeting beginning at 9:30 a.m. and the regular meeting at 11.
Grennell said Thursday’s meeting was specially called prior to Tuesday’s meeting in an effort to not lengthen already lengthy regular meetings.