The names of three finalists for police chief of Laurinburg have been revealed and that has some in city government concerned.
WLNC radio reported Friday morning that the finalists were interim Police Chief Kimothy Monroe, Laurinburg police Lt. Darwin Williams and former Scotland County Sheriff’s deputy Eric Pate, who now works at the Sanford Police Department.
City officials had been holding the candidates’ names in confidence and declined to confirm the radio report when contacted by the Exchange on Friday. Calls to Monroe, Pate and Williams were not returned by presstime.
“Anytime confidential information leaks out, for whatever reason or by whatever means, it’s counter to the process,” said Mayor Tommy Parker on Friday. “The reason it’s confidential is just what the word implies – it’s not for public dissemination.”
The council’s inability to run a tight ship may also hamper future hiring efforts, Parker suggested.
“Anytime candidates see a council that appears to be dysfunctional, there are fears and some people just won’t care to get involved with it,” Parker said, adding that it may have already affected this process as well. “I think we may have lost some candidates early on because of the fear that it would be found out.
“In my mind it won’t affect the final outcome of this process, however,” Parker added.
Councilman Kenton Spencer said that the release of the names concerned him, as well.
“I’m concerned because it’s the city manager’s role and his role alone (to hire a police chief). It’s as simple as that … That’s where any information about this process should be coming from and it doesn’t mean a heap of beans what’s coming out of my mouth. To use President (George W.) Bush’s words, they are the deciders.”
According to Spencer, some inside city government could be trying to influence the outcome of the hiring process unduly.
“This is where you’ve got people trying to game it, to game the process,” Spencer said, calling into question the integrity of the police chief search.
Such activities, Spencer said, may also discourage the involvement of internal candidates.
“It won’t only affect future hires, but it will affect internal hires as well if the name of an internal candidate gets out. It creates a natural tension in the workplace. It separates workers. It’s not constructive, especially in paramilitary organizations (like the police). It can challenge the esprit de corps.”
Monroe has served as acting interim police chief since Johnny Evans retired at the end of 2012. Prior to serving as interim chief Monroe worked as a police captain for four years.
Williams is a juvenile detective in the Laurinburg Police Department, having served in law enforcement for 19 years. He is also a member of the Scotland County Board of Education.
Evans, who also served as fire chief, was replaced by former fire inspector and Lieutenant Randy Gibson on March 19.
The city posted the police chief job on Feb. 13.
Asked about the city council’s role in the hiring process, Spencer said that it should be restricted to oversight.
“We are involved only to ensure that all candidates get a fair shot and to ensure that information about the hire is clearly shared with the public and so that we can answer the public’s questions.”
Spencer said earlier this week that interim City Manager Harold Haywood would make a decision on the hire, taking into account the counsel of his staff.
According to Spencer, incoming city manager Charles Nichols will be “involved as much as he wants to be involved” with the police chief hiring process as well.
“That’s the proper thing and that is (Nichols’) decision. It’s up to (Haywood and Nichols).”
Speaking on Friday, Nichols did not confirm that he would be directly involved in making the hire.
“Officially I don’t start until July 1 and with that being said, I’m only privileged up until that point to certain information – the information that is shared with me by the city. If it is the wish of the city for me to be involved, then that’s up to them,” Nichols said.
Speaking to the Exchange last week, Parker said that it would be advantageous to have a police chief in place prior to Nichols first day on the job on July 1.
“Whoever comes in will have to hit the ground running, and it will be good if they are able to come in and concentrate on the business of running the city without (concerning themselves with filling a senior police department vacancy),” Parker said.
Councilmen JD Willis and Curtis Leak declined to comment on the hiring process. Calls to councilmembers Mary Jo Adams and Drew Williamson were not returned by presstime.