Johnny Woodard|Laurinburg Exchange
Civic League President Daryl "B.J." Gibson addresses the City Council on the police chief hiring.
Laurinburg Mayor Tommy Parker (center) installed Bruce Simms and Brent Webb as volunteer members of the fire department during this week's city council meeting.
The search for a new police chief has gone on long enough according to a local civic organization.
Represented at this week’s city council meeting by its president Daryl “B.J.” Gibson, the recently-formed Scotland County Civic League is pressuring the city to find a permanent police chief soon, before crime gets out of hand. About 20 members of the Civic League also attended the city council meeting.
“We ask you tonight to let (Interim City Manager Harold Haywood) do what he has been selected to do,” said Gibson, who suggested that the process has been held up by members of the city council. “We do wonder tonight why he cannot do what he has been elected to do (and select a police chief).”
By city statute, the responsibility of hiring a permanent chief of police to replace John Evans, who retired on December 31 of last year, lies with Haywood.
Longtime police captain Kimothy Monroe has served as interim police chief since January.
Councilman Kenton Spencer went on WLNC radio Wednesday morning to say that the police chief 's hiring was being conducted as defined by statute.
“It’s an ongoing process and the city manager, with input from his staff, will make that decision,” Spencer said.
No timetable for the hire has been established.
An extensive assessment process has been conducted over the past several months by the city to evaluate candidates for the decision, and three finalists advanced to the last round of consideration, according to HR Director Amy Martin.
Citing an uptick in violence in the community, Gibson, who also serves on the county school board, said that a decision should be made soon so that the Laurinburg Police Department can move forward.
Gibson also leveled a complaint at Martin and Laurinburg Mayor Tommy Parker, saying that they failed to respond to an inquiry made by representatives of the Civic League two weeks ago.
“About two weeks ago we came to City Hall to meet with (Martin),” Gibson said. When told that she was not available, Gibson said that he understood a meeting with Martin would be arranged.
“Till today we have not received that meeting,” Gibson said. “We were told (Martin) was directed by our mayor not to meet with us.”
Parker explained that “someone came to (City Hall), and had questions that they wanted answered … and they wanted (a staff member) to be their stenographer.”
According to Parker, rather than respond only go Gibson’s group, city staff thought it prudent to respond in the media.
“At that point we chose to contact The Exchange and answer the questions publicly, for the entire city of Laurinburg. We thought that was the fairest way to answer.”
Exchange reporters met with Parker and Martin on May 12 and the conversation was reported in the May 13 edition.
On Wednesday, Parker said that Martin did in fact respond to the Civic League’s initial inquiry, answering its questions by e-mail and inviting the group to follow up with any additional questions.
“We were wrongly accused there, and I stand by my statement,” Parker said during the council meeting.
Parker said that he called Gibson on Wednesday and that the two shared a “civil conversation about the situation.”
“We both want what is best for the city,” Parker said.
Calls to Gibson’s phone by The Exchange were not returned by presstime on Wednesday.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the city council continued the recently established practice of publicly swearing in new police and fire department personnel.
Parker administered the oath to new Laurinburg Fire Department volunteer firefighters Bruce Simms and Brent Webb, both of whom were welcomed with a standing ovation by those in attendance at City Hall.
“We’re glad to have you,” Parker said. “We want the city to know who is out there protecting them and it is an honor to install you.”