Aldermen get earful of complaints; citizens petition for chief’s ouster

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2003

WESSON — A number of residents made it clear to the board ofaldermen Tuesday that they’re not pleased with the policedepartment and its personnel.

Less tickets, no road blocks and only local residents serving asofficers were some requests made to the board by a “concernedcitizens” group. More than 35 people filled town hall to expresstheir grievances last night.

Issues with the police department came to a boiling point whenlong-time officer and former Police Chief Steve Carlisle of Wessonwas put on administrative leave a few weeks ago. Since that time,approximately 60 of the town’s 1,690 residents have signed apetition to have the officer reinstated and current Police ChiefLance Falvey fired.

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Carlisle was reinstated after one day on administrativeleave.

“Steve Carlisle is the only police officer I’ve had contact withwho has been professional,” said resident Jeanette Munn. “I’munhappy with Lance Falvey. I want the board to consider someaction.”

After Munn finished telling aldermen about her concerns,resident Will Turnbough stepped forward to let the aldermen know hedisagreed with the entire petition, and he was behind Falvey “100percent.”

Resident James Hodges added to the argument when he emotionallyexpressed resentment for the lack of action allegedly taken whenhis dogs were reported missing.

Hodges said Falvey did little to find the dogs, which Hodges’valued at $350 each.

Also, Hodges shared with the board a comment Falvey supposedlymade to him after hearing Hodges speak rudely about a passingvehicle.

“He told me if I rattled his chain, he’d bite me,” saidHodges.

As the open discussion began to get out of hand, with peopletrying talking above each other, board members called for anexecutive session to discuss “personnel related to job performance,character or professional competence of a person holding a positionin the police department.”

Following an approximately 30-minute discussion behind closeddoors, aldermen emerged to report they had decided to take thematter under advisement.

Mayor Pro Tem Lura Greer said the board planned to talk withCarlisle and Falvey separately and together in order to reach apossible pact.

At this announcement, the crowd erupted in conversation withseveral comments made toward the board.

Some residents asked who gave Falvey the authority to putsomeone on administrative leave, and the board informed the crowdthat Falvey was given that right by the board.

Greer spoke up and said she thought Falvey should have consultedthe board prior to any action, but Ward Four Alderman Hollis CowenJr. quickly pointed out that was not necessary.

“Every entity has an operating procedure. If he does not followit, then he is held accountable by this board. But Falvey has theright to suspend an officer on site,” said Cowen, saying hedisagreed with Greer.

Feeding on the apparent split in the board’s opinion, severalmembers of the crowd began to threaten the board’s positions.

“You’re voted in office; ya’ll can be voted out of office,”shouted Juanita Teasley.

Another resident, Wilmer Newman, told the board another petitioncould follow, indicating residents may rally against anotherdepartment or the entire board.

“Ya’ll just get that under your hat and smoke it,” he said fromthe back of the room.

Residents asked again for Falvey to be fired, saying he hiredonly Lincoln County people and he treated Wesson peopleunfairly.

“We’re not going to fire a chief just because people say he’sdone something wrong without any evidence,” said Ward One AldermanRobert Derrick. “We’re going to hear both sides.”

When asked about complaint procedures, Derrick said residentscould fill out forms through the town clerk’s office. He said thecomplaints would be fully checked out “from one end toanother.”

The matter will be discussed again after the election of a mayoron July 15. Voting will be held at town hall from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.The qualified candidates are Marty Stroud, Billy Ellison, AltonShaw, David McGee and Nan Drane-Britt.