On a split vote, Lewisburg's City Council decided Tuesday against firing a police sergeant accused of filing work time records that led to overpayment of $850.
And with a 2-3 vote, the Council rejected another proposal suggesting that the policeman be prosecuted for theft. Instead, he's to repay the money though installment payments.
With a standing-room-only audience at City Hall, the Council conducted three votes on what to do in response to City Attorney Bill Haywood's investigation and report on Sgt. Douglas Alexander's time sheets and work hours. Haywood read his report aloud into the public record and votes on what to do were either 3-2, or 2-3.
Alexander, the school resource officer at Lewisburg Middle School, who didn't attend the Council meeting, was accused of falsifying work records after he'd been warned that city employees don't get compensatory time and that police must work through lunch if duty calls. Alexander was shifting his lunchroom duty time to the end of the day. Time sheet entries also resulted in overtime pay.
Three of the Council's votes on Alexander were identical in their alignment of councilmen. Councilmen Hershel Davis, Robin Minor and Odie Whitehead Jr. voted together, effectively supporting Alexander. Councilmen Ronald McRady and Quinn Stewart voted together, at first favoring punishment.
The city can't have an officer who falsifies records, Stewart said, calling for Alexander's dismissal, forced reimbursement, "and I want him prosecuted." Felony theft would be the charge, according to memos from Police Chief Chuck Forbis.
Extensive discussion followed Stewart's motion that failed 2-3 like her motion to dismiss Alexander and request repayment.
"Officers are held to a higher standard," McRady said.
Whitehead quoted Alexander when he attended a meeting with Alexander, Forbis and City Manager Eddie Fuller.
"Alexander said it was an innocent mistake," Whitehead said, noting that as city manager, Fuller is the chief executive officer and has the authority to decide against punishing Alexander for what happened.
Whitehead said Alexander asked him to attend the meeting with Forbis and Fuller because Whitehead is on the Police Advisory Board. McRady objected saying having an elected official at a personnel meeting was improper.
McRady also complained that Alexander had been warned about how he filed work-time sheets, but continued. He did stop after he received an April 30 memo from Forbis. The chief's memo to Alexander and one to Fuller are posted at marshaltribune.com.
The full text of City Attorney Bill Haywood's report on Alexander is on the web at marshalltribune.com. A summary was published here Wednesday. Haywood offered five alternatives ranging from dismissal, prosecution and reimbursement to no action.
McRady moved to have Alexander "pay back what he didn't understand" as overpayment, and have reimbursement come from his next paycheck. That motion failed for lack of a second.
The councilman noted Alexander's hourly wage would be $51,500 annually and the cost of employing Alexander is about $70,300, including insurance and other benefits.
McRady moved to have Alexander repay the money, reportedly found to be exactly $849.50. That motion failed 2-3.
Minor moved to retain Alexander and have him make payments on an installment plan with an amount deducted from paychecks issued every other week.
Whitehead seconded the motion, saying that Alexander's family has gone through a lot of sickness [and] he's had a lot of hardships in his life."
Several people - family and friends of Alexander - spoke for the sergeant.
The vote on that motion was again 3-2 with Davis serving as the swing vote as Minor and Whitehead called for action and Davis voted with them.
"The matter is settled," Mayor Barbara Woods said after that part of the meeting.
With five councilmen elected from wards, the mayor is elected at large, from across the city. Under this arrangement of city government, the mayor usually votes only to break a tie and that's when a councilman is absent or abstaining.
"I would have gone with what Eddie (Fuller) did," Woods said. "That's what you hire a city manager to do,"
Had Alexander been "intentional" about trying to get more money from the city by filing inflated time records, the mayor would have a different position, she said.
During the public comment period there were statements to the council in support of the sergeant who has served as police chief and is the chairman of the Lewisburg Housing Authority's Board of Directors.
One of the people speaking for Alexander on Tuesday night was Dr. Stanley Murphy who knows Alexander well. He was raised here, owns property here and lives in Clarksville. His prepared statement - requested immediately after he spoke to the Council - is posted at marshalltribune.com.