Citizens question Amory aldermen about chief of police issue
AMORY – Even though the board of aldermen rescinded its decision with to make the office of police chief an appointed position with a 4-1 vote in a special-called meeting on Dec. 17, the courtroom was filled with concerned and angry citizens during it’s regular-called meeting the next day.
“I think as citizens of Amory, if we elect, we can un-elect and I think you know what I mean by that,” said Dorothy Carter.
While many turned out to discuss the issue of voting rights, others were there to express concern about current police chief Ronnie Bowen. Some questions revolved around Bowen’s alleged misuse of city funds and vehicles, as well as whether or not he had overspent his budget.
One allegation mentioned during the meeting was that Amory Police Department was logging extreme amounts of overtime authorized by Bowen.
“From Oct. 1 through Dec. 15, Mr. Bowen has logged 1,155 overtime hours. At that rate, the total will be 6,006 overtime hours and $140,000 in overtime pay alone,” Jolane Parchman said.
Bowen responded that football season is why overtime hours had been up and that he has been honest in all his dealings as chief.
Citizens wanted to know what happened in the closed meeting the night before and why it was closed in the first place, raising the question that, as an elected official, if Bowen should be accountable to the voters, not the aldermen.
“Any issue related to performance is considered a personnel matter to be discussed in executive session. It would be unfair to any employee to discuss these things in public,” said city attorney John Creekmore.
As far as the budget, Mayor Howard Boozer stated that the board’s concerns were for this year only and that it was discussed openly and fairly with Bowen in the closed meeting the night before.
“I made a commitment to this board to stay within the budget. I have not done anything wrong, illegal or unethical,” Bowen said.
As to why the aldermen changed their minds on the issue, both Ward 4 alderman Bill Lyle and Ward 3 alderman Tony Poss stated that they just wanted to do the right thing in terms of giving the people back their voting rights.
“I thought we had a good discussion in the closed meeting. I’ve had family issues and wasn’t thinking clearly. We are all voters and my dad always taught me to listen to the people,” Poss said.
Ward 2 Alderman John Darden stated that he was satisfied with the discussion with Bowen and his attorney the night before.
Ward 1 alderman Buddy Carlisle had voted against the ordinance the first time, and Alderman-at-Large Tommy Wilkerson stuck with his decision that the position should be appointed instead of elected.
In other action during the special-called meeting, the board appointed alderman Lyle as the new police commissioner to act as a liaison between the police department and the board, leaving some confused.
“Why do we need a policeman to police the policeman” asked Martha Dalrymple.
Mayor Boozer reminded the crowd that, under state statute, the board has no authority to police the police department and that the voters are the only ones the chief is accountable to.
This is not the first time the city has appointed a commissioner. Peggy Wilkerson was the last police commissioner, a position which was cancelled in 2001.
As the last of the crowd filed out of the courtroom, Poss stated, “We saw democracy at work tonight and I learned a very valuable lesson. This is not an exact science, but we have a process. The people spoke and we listened.”
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About Emily Tubb
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