Aldermen approve posting police chief’s job for applicants in house only and job description for that position

Published 5:36 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023

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NATCHEZ — After a contentious discussion, the Natchez Board of Aldermen voted four-to-two to post the city’s police chief position in house to current police department personnel only and approve the job description for that job.

Aldermen Valencia Hall, Sarah Carter Smith, Felicia Bridgewater Irving and Ben Davis voted in favor of the motion.

Aldermen Billie Joe Frazier and Dan Dillard voted against the posting.

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Frazier and Irving were absent from the meeting when City Clerk Megan McKenzie called the roll. Having a quorum, aldermen went on with the business of the meeting.

Frazier and Irving walked into the meeting several minutes after Carter Smith introduced a motion, which was seconded by Hall, to post the permanent police chief job opening for five days to current police officers and set the job description for the position, which includes candidates must have 20 years minimum experience and three years administrative experience, as well as a bachelor’s degree or 20 years’ minimum experience in lieu of a bachelor’s degree.

“I want to make certain that is clear. That is in the job description,” said Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson.

Upon arriving to the meeting, Frazier, when informed about the motion, strongly objected, saying any discussion of the police chief position was not included on the special meeting’s agenda, therefore could not be discussed.

He was informed it was added to the meeting agenda early Wednesday morning and an email was sent to inform all about the change at 10 a.m. In addition, the updated agenda was hand-delivered to each alderman’s home during the morning, Gibson said.

“I don’t care when it was added, I did not know about it,” Frazier said.

Special called city meetings are limited to discussion on agenda items only. However, additional items can be added to that agenda up to and until three hours prior to the beginning of the meeting, City Attorney Bryan Callaway confirmed.

Callaway said the matter was added to the agenda to meet a deadline. He said aldermen have 90 days to fill temporary positions. Aldermen appointed Interim Police Chief Cal Green on Dec. 6, 2022, and the deadline for naming a new chief or renewing that appointment is March 6.

Alderman Dan Dillard asked why the posting for the job was limited to in-house, current personnel only.

“Why are we limiting this? Why are we not discussing whether to go outside the local or how have we gotten to an inside search,” Dillard asked.

Carter Smith, who is the chairman of the aldermen’s public safety committee, said when Police Chief Joseph Daughtry resigned in December 2022 to take the police chief’s job in Columbus, it was the desire of the board to look in-house for a replacement.

“That was the discussion the whole time. There was discussion on this. The discussion that we have qualified people in house and that we wanted to stay in house for the sake of morale,” Carter Smith said.

Dillard denied ever hearing such discussion.

Hall called the question, which was seconded by Carter Smith. That motion ends discussion on the motion.

“You can’t call a question to stymy discussion, Mr. Mayor,” Dillard said.

However, Roberts Rules of Order, which most municipal boards like the City of Natchez use to maintain order in its official meetings, reads that the mayor must call for a vote when the question is called and that call receives a second.

“The way we are doing this … Already something has been set up or jammed up, Mr. Attorney,” Frazier said.

The mayor went forward with a vote on the motion to post the job in house, which was approved.

In a second motion, Carter Smith asked that the civil service commission, which is led by Donte Ware, review the applications the city receives from this posting and review the position’s job description, just approved by aldermen.

She included in the motion that the civil service commission make their recommendation to the aldermen by Feb. 28, to allow the city to meet its deadline for making a permanent police chief appointment.

Frazier and Irving again balked, saying they had just received the job description and need more time to “look into it more,” Frazier said.

The question was again called and a vote was taken, which ended in a tie. Aldermen Frazier, Irving and Dillard voted against the motion and Hall, Carter Smith and Davis voted in favor.

Gibson, as mayor, was called on to break the tie, which he did, siding with asking the civil service commission to go forward.