Police advisory board named

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lewisburg Mayor Bob Phillips has appointed five people to the city's newly formed Police Advisory Board and, in a move not required by the City Council, he's named two non-voting members to provide insights from young people.

The young, ex-officio members were not selected to be voting members, Phillips said, because he felt that the advisory board needed all five of the people he selected to fill the positions described by the council's authorizing resolution.

City Manager Eddie Fuller has said Lewisburg leaders had been thinking about establishing a Police Advisory Board for several years.

The idea took on a renewed sense of urgency amid the controversy surrounding Doug Alexander, the former chief who stepped down to be a sergeant. Councilwoman Quinn Brandon drafted a set of proposed guidelines for an advisory board, recommended that it be created, and the council agreed.

Among several responsibilities, the board is to review resumes and applications from people who want to become Lewisburg's next police chief. After interviewing applicants, the advisory board is to issue a recommendation to the city manager, who is charged with the responsibility of hiring city employees.

Phillips announced the board's membership on Monday. They are:

* Former Lewisburg Police Chief Wayne Coomes of White Drive, a retired Marine.

* Former Marshall County Commission Chairwoman Lina Horner of Yell Road.

* Councilman Robin Minor of Douglas Street, a Lewisburg Middle School history teacher.

* The Rev. Steve Thomas of East Commerce Street, the minister at Union Presbyterian Church in Belfast, who's seen as having good people skills.

* Ronald Greer of Old Farmington Road who retired from ICP in 1994. He was a supervisor in the assembly department of the heating and air conditioning plant.

When contacted by the Tribune, Greer, 71, said, "I'd like to see how it works before I make any comments."

Before working for ICP, Greer was a repairman at the Jones & Wilson Service Station. He did not apply for the committee assignment.

The ex-officio members of the advisory committee are Joey Moorefield, who works at First Commerce Bank, and Emily Darnell, who works at H&S Pharmacy, a drug store owned by the mayor.

"Both of them are in their 20s and I think they'll be able to offer a needed perspective to the board," Phillips said. "These two have agreed to serve in that [non-voting] capacity. This will be a good learning experience for them to get their feet wet in the local government."

Phillips said he added non-voting members "even though the council didn't give me specific authority" to do so. Asked why he didn't make Moorefield or Darnell a voting member and one of the others an ex-officio member, the mayor replied, "I felt that I needed to have all the others."

The newly named advisory board "will meet before Nov. 30 because that's the last day that the chief applicants can apply," Phillips said. "I want to have one orientation meeting with them since this is a new board."

The board is also charged with hearing grievances from officers and from the public about the department.

Councilwoman Brandon's suggestion for an advisory board came about the time Alexander declined to answer her questions about a state investigation into the department. However, there had been recurring issues about department personnel. Some issues were brought to council meetings during a public comment period before regular business was conducted.

Because of unrelated issues, the council recently adopted a policy of restricting public comments before regular business to matters that can be addressed by the council. Complaints about utilities, for example, are to be taken to the boards for those separately chartered panels.