Twists, irony, boredom and the rare 3 to 3 tie vote broken by Mayor Robert Smith marked the October 18th meeting of the Columbus City Council.
Birney Imes, owner of The Commercial Dispatch, was the star of the show. He spoke in the Citizen Input Agenda portion of the meeting, a spot usually reserved for citizens making requests or airing complaints against the city. It has a 2 – 5 minute time limit that is rarely enforced. However, on this night, Mr. Imes, representing the 21-person Police Chief Search Committee, announced that the committee was down to its final five candidates and three alternates. The list included: Interim Police Chief Selvain McQueen, Curtis Brame of North Chicago, Ill., Nathaniel Clark of New Albany, GA (one of the finalists four years ago when the job was last open), Sam Lathrop of Beloit, Wis. and Robert Spinks of Sequim, Wash. One of the original five dropped out of the process before the announcement. Missing from the list was Assistant Chief Joe Johnson.
During the discussion, Mr. Imes said that the committee members had been very active
and he circulated a sheet of their comments, a sheet that, unfortunately, was not made available to those of us in the audience. Mr. Imes mentioned that one committee member had stated, “I don’t feel safe in Columbus anymore…and the alarm in my house is now hooked up.”
Mr. Imes said that the committee strongly recommended that a subcommittee be formed to check the backgrounds of prospective candidates. Mayor Robert Smith quickly agreed with Mr. Imes’ proposal and called for Mr. Imes to be in charge of that
responsibility as well.
City Attorney Jeff Turnage suggested using the firm Gleason, Inc. to do the background checks to ensure they were done correctly but Mayor Smith was quick to draw attention to the expense. Mr. Turnage countered, “it would be expensive not to hire the right chief,” but Mayor Smith muscled the conversation back to the subcommittee doing the work. Mr. Imes agreed that he would do “whatever City Council asks.”
After a minor spirited debate, when Ward Five Councilman Karriem voiced concern that the committee might not ask candidates the right questions, a motion to elect the
subcommittee from the original committee was passed by a vote of 5 to 1, with Kabier
Karriem registering the lone negative vote. A five-person committee is a reasonable size for doing background checks on candidates although no timetable has been set
to complete this task.
In other news from the meeting, Mayor Smith broke a 3 to 3 tie vote on allowing alcohol
to be served at the Riverwalk by non-profit organizations once a year. The pro alcohol votes came from Councilmen Taylor, Karriem and Stewart. Councilmen Box, Gavin and Mickens were opposed. This change in the ordinance has stemmed from this year’s Legends Concert where alcohol was served. Mayor Smith, who is a driving force behind the event, sealed the deal with his yes vote!
In other notes:
Thumbs up to Councilman Mickens for receiving a special award from Fire Chief Kenneth Moore for completing an 8 hour training course at the Mississippi Fire College.
Thumbs down to Councilman Karriem for grilling Chris Hannon on potential liability issues regarding his planned “Spirited Columbus” bus tour. The Seventh Avenue Festival is a 1000% greater liability than Hannon’s Halloween ghost tour could ever be.
Thumbs down to Mayor Smith who added item N to the Consent Agenda at the last minute. And what was it? An all-expense-paid vacation for Judge Clinkscales to attend a drug court conference in Reno, NV. Where what will be accomplished? That’s right
folks and the best part…..you are paying for it!
The Big Question: Shouldn’t resumés of the final five candidates for Chief of Police be available for the community to read? I challenge our readers to ask their officials
to let them see their Dossiers!!! The rumors on the street are already flying.