Leachville Police Chief retires

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Leachville Police Chief Keith Evans announced his retirement Friday, Aug. 29, and thanked the city for allowing him to serve as chief. During the meeting Evans thanked and praised all those in the department and city that he has served with the past 20 years.

Leachville Police Chief announced his retirement from law enforcement to the Leachville City Council at a special called meeting Friday, Aug. 29.

"I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve this city," Evans said. "I had an opportunity come up that would allow me to spend more time with my family. I have enjoyed working with all of you and you all have my support. I'm not leaving Leachville and will still help in any way I can. I will miss the kids on the first two days of school - that is something I have enjoyed doing. I will also miss everyone I have worked with. Thank you."

The council thanked Evans for his years of service to the community. Evans started working for the Leachville Police Department in 1995. He left for two years to work for the county but came back to Leachville as chief. After 20 years of service police officers are eligible to retire. Evans did say after speaking to both lieutenants on the force he would recommend Lt. Steve Lancaster to be interim chief. Evans said both lieutenants are highly qualified but Lancaster has been interim chief before. It was after the council's hour long executive session that things became heated and Evans, who was set to leave Sept. 11, decided to go ahead and step down.

After the executive session Alderman Bill Hetler made the motion to place Lt. Lancaster in the interim chief position. That motion was seconded by Teresa Johnson but with the remaining three council members voting against that motion failed. Alderman Tommy Stone made the motion to appoint Lt. Chuck Brown as interim chief. That motion passed with three council members voting for, council member Johnson voting against and Bill Hetler abstaining. The council then unanimously approved a motion to start advertising for a new chief on Sept. 2 with all applications needing to be in by Nov. 7.

Alderman Johnson made a motion that Evans be paid his 680 hours of sick pay and 120 hours of vacation pay at $19.62 an hour to be paid out weekly. It was then that city clerk Ruth Keith said Evans had only 440 hours of sick pay. Keith explained that the police officers are on a salary, which she has always figured at 40 hours a week at eight hours a day. She also said according to the municipal League attorney David Schon the council could not pay Evans for 90 days of sick pay without an ordinance. Members of the council explained they were not figuring 90 days but 60 days at 12 hour days and that Evans had his last check stub that showed he had 720 hours of sick days minus 40 he used while off for a knee injury leaving him 680 to be paid.

Keith told the council that is not the way hours are figured. She said if it were, then she was taught wrong and someone should have shown her different. She also presented to the council an attorney general opinion from 2002 that said if an officer is retiring but not of age to receive retirement benefits that officer was not eligible to be paid sick pay upon retiring.

"I'm not trying to begrudge him his pay," Keith said. "I don't want to do that at all. I just want to make sure we are doing this right."

Several council members were upset and felt because Evans had a pay stub that showed the hours he was entitled to it should be paid, but Keith said the pay stub was an error. After heated discussion Alderman David Wallace made a motion the city get an attorney's opinion on the matter presenting them the specific circumstances of this case and go from there. The council unanimously approved the motion.

Evans then apologized that such an argument had erupted saying he is still leaving on good terms but felt he needed to step down now instead of waiting. He thanked the council again for allowing him to serve the city of Leachville.

Council members felt there had been a precedent set when previous chiefs had left that needed to be followed but agreed to wait for the attorney's opinion. Evans will still receive his vacation pay but not his sick pay until the matter can be settled.

The council meeting was adjourned with several people still upset.

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