Earle Police Dept. sorting through mess left by former mayor
Ousted police chief back on duty, pair of other officers fail to appear
A former police chief who was fired by the previous mayor is back on the job in Earle as part of a lawsuit settlement with the city.
But two other officers who were part of the same lawsuit are no-shows, and as far as the city is concerned will not be coming back to their old jobs.
“(Jerry) Eaves is the only one who is back,” said Mayor Sherman Smith.
“And right now, the other two are in breech of their agreement because they did not report back to work after the case was settled.”
Eaves was police chief but was fired by former Mayor Carolyn Jones in January 2015 when she took office.
Jones also fired two other officers, Tommy Hampton and Waldo McWans, and replaced them with four new officers on the same day, all of whom were black.
Hampton, McWans, and Eaves sued the city claiming their firing was racially motivated. Jones refused to give a reason behind the firings other than that they were at-will employees.
Jones was recalled by voters in March and the city settled the lawsuit for $90,000. Under the terms of the agreement, the city was required to re-hire all three at their former rate of pay and guarantee them employment for one year.
Smith said Eaves was the only one who filled out the paperwork for reinstatement. The city has not heard back from Hampton, who is a police officer in Marked Tree, or McWans.
Although he is back in the city’s employ, Smith said Eaves will not be serving as police chief.
“He is back as an officer,” Smith said.
Prior to serving as chief, Eaves was a police officer dating back to when Smith last served as mayor in 2008.
“He worked for me for a lot of years under my administration,” Smith said.
Councilman Kenneth Cross said he spoke to the attorney and was told that since the other two officers did not report back to work, the city is under no obligation to hire them back.
According to the terms of the settlement, the two officers had until May 8 to report back to work.
“Their attorney signed it (May 5). It was signed by the Judge on (May 8),” Cross said. “If they did not report (on May 8), that’s it.
They broke their contract.”
Councilwoman Jimmie Barham asked whether the city is off the hook for the other two officers.
“Is that what you are saying?” Barham asked.
“According to the contract, yes,” Cross responded.
Eaves return required the city to re-adjust its budget.
The city budgeted $31,200 for a police chief, but did not budget for any full-time officers.
The city council agreed to do away with two part-time officer positions and consolidate them into one fulltime position. City Clerk Cynthia Conner said no one will lose their job as a result of eliminating those positions because they were never filled.
“Those were just two slots that were available,” Conner told the council. “But no one was put in to the position.”
On a related matter, Smith informed the council that he is still looking to hire a police chief.
The city advertised the job and received five applicants, but Smith said he wasn’t satisfied with the applicants.
“I didn’t want to use anybody in there,” Smith said.
“So we are basically back to square one.”
Smith said he plans to readvertise the position.
By Mark Randall