City Puts “Entire Force” on Admin Leave
Following an Executive Session during a special called meeting last Thursday, March 31, the City of Lexington placed the second of their only two remaining full-time police officers on Administrative Leave with pay. At an earlier meeting held on March 17, Officer Fred Kelly was placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of a charge against him in Hays County. He is accused of stealing a cell phone from a company for which he had acted as a security guard last fall.
Last Thursday, Officer Jim Sherer was placed on paid administrative leave until a new Chief is hired to evaluate him. The council’s actions may have been spurred by a local man who threatened a class action lawsuit against the city.
Prior to the Council entering into Executive Session last Thursday, four people spoke in Citizen Input: Donald Chrisner, Bob Tillery, Mary Atkins, and Sam Scoggins, who was the person who threatened the city with a class action lawsuit during his citizen input.
Reading from his notes, Scoggins said, “Tonight is the night to take action! The time is at hand. If no action is taken, you will be leaving it up to the citizens who have made complaints to once again take it into their own hands and take it to a higher power. The American Civil Liberties Union has offered to represent these citizens in a class action suit, both against the officers as individuals and the city as well. The city will ultimately be held liable. We know that the lawyers for the city have been advising the council that they cannot terminate the officers involved for fear that they may sue the city. If no action is taken the shoe will be on the other foot with the citizens forced to sue.”
Over the course of the past few months, a handful of local citizens have been coming before the council with complaints against the Police Department, accusing the officers of being racist and overzealous. The complainants assert that they have signed letters from several area residents who feel they were treated unfairly by the Lexington police. This prompted the appointment of a Citizen Advisory Committee to look into the complaints and resulted in the resignation of Lexington Police Chief Randy Davenport and another full-time officer. The 5-member Citizen Advisory Committee included two City Council members: Tim Brown and William Langehennig. Also serving were Angela Brower, Angela Stinnet and Kerry Quinney. Only the members of the Committee, along with a few complainants, have seen the alleged signed letters. Even the Mayor of Lexington has not seen the letters and neither have the officers about whom the complaints have been made.
Another committee has been formed to help the city find a new Chief of Police. Mayor Robert Willrich, Sr., Council members Tony Tavary and William Langehennig, City Secretary Pam Cox and four retired or acting law enforcement officers from Williamson and Travis Counties are serving on that committee.
Tavary said to the Leader this week, “We met with a couple of the retired officers who will be helping us hire a new chief and I believe that with their advice we’ll be able to get a better candidate for our city.”
The council voted to increase the Chief of Police’s salary from approximately $ 38,000 to $45,000 a year. They hope to begin interviewing candidates immediately.
The city has received resumes from more than 20 people applying for Chief of Police. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Texas Department of Public Safety will help patrol the city until a new Chief is hired.