Aragon votes for fourth in­terim chief in 2018

Coun­cil places Taulbee on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave with pay pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Myrick [email protected]­stan­dard­jour­

The Aragon City Coun­cil voted unan­i­mously last Thurs­day night to place their cur­rent in­terim Chief Ali­son Taulbee on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave with pay for four weeks while wait­ing for the out­come of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mayor Garry Bald­win re­cused him­self ahead of the vote af­ter a 45-minute ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion fol­low­ing the con­clu­sion of their reg­u­lar busi­ness for the month.

In a state­ment the fol­low­ing morn­ing from the city, they did not elab­o­rate on the cir­cum­stances be­hind the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. They did say the mat­ter would be re­vis­ited in four weeks time from the listed date, which would fall around the time of the next city coun­cil meet­ing on Thurs­day, Oct. 18.

No ad­di­tional com­ments were of­fered about the is­sue, a rea­son for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion or who would be con­duct­ing the in­quiry.

Chief Kenny Dodd with the Polk County Po­lice Depart­ment was on hand for last night’s meet­ing, and coun­cil mem­bers did speak with him be­tween the work ses­sion and their reg­u­lar called meet­ing on Sept. 20.

Taulbee, who this week is at train­ing for chiefs this week she paid for her­self, didn’t wish to com­ment last Fri­day morn­ing.

Marc Ri­ley was voted unan­i­mously to serve as the in­terim chief. Bald­win first sub­mit­ted the name of Sgt. Michael Evans to take over the po­si­tion, but no coun­cil mem­ber would put up a mo­tion to ap­prove.

Taulbee later fol­lowed up to add in a state­ment on the record that “(Marc) Ri­ley was on ac­tive ad­min­is­tra­tive leave for at least one or more gross vi­o­la­tions of pol­icy. Why was he cho­sen over Evans, who has an im­pec­ca­ble record and a re­cent com­men­da­tion?”

She added that “Mayor (Bald­win) was to­tally aware of rea­sons why Ri­ley was placed on ad­min(is­tra­tive) leave. I still have no ideal why I am. No rea­son stated, only that there is “an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.””

With Taulbee’s sus­pen­sion, Ri­ley and Evans are the last two of­fi­cers serv­ing in the Aragon Po­lice Depart­ment.

Coun­cil mem­ber Can­dace Seiz had ini­tial ques­tions dur­ing the work ses­sion about re­pairs paid by Taulbee out of pocket for a re­pair to a tire and a seat belt on the po­lice cruiser she uses as a take home ve­hi­cle.

She said that in her in­quiry about the spend­ing, she found that it wasn’t ap­proved by the city’s Fi­nan­cial Con­sul­tant Rick Ast­ley and that Taulbee had paid much higher prices for the equip­ment re­pairs than she would have paid lo­cally.

Ac­cord­ing to Seiz, Taulbee paid more than $150 over what it would have cost to patch the tire and at least $77 more for the seat belt re­pair via Peach State Ford. Taulbee took the ve­hi­cle to a Ford deal­er­ship close to her home in Blue Ridge in­stead.

Seiz felt the city “was ripped off” by the re­pair costs.

“I un­der­stand what’s done is done, but my con­cern is that we’re try­ing to save money,” Seiz said.

Bald­win ex­plained that he ap­proved of the re­pairs, but thought they were be­ing un­der­taken by Pub­lic Works Su­per­in­ten­dent Daniel John­son, and not out­side of the county.

Coun­cil mem­ber Amy Causey cited her own con­cerns about the is­sue, and that em­ploy­ees should be more care­ful about de­ci­sions such as these when the city’s bud­get is tight. She added that Bald­win needs to pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion about in­ci­dents like the re­pair.

“Had I not been in the of­fice at the time, I wouldn’t have known about it,” Causey said.

Taulbee was re­im­bursed for the cost of the re­pairs.

The coun­cil ahead of the de­ci­sion to put Taulbee on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave also dis­cussed in their work ses­sion the pos­si­bil­ity of gath­er­ing a panel ap­pointed by the coun­cil to eval­u­ate can­di­dates for the Aragon Po­lice Depart­ment Chief’s po­si­tion.

Seiz ar­gued that be­cause Bald­win had no pre­vi­ous back­ground in law en­force­ment, a panel in­clud­ing of­fi­cers or chiefs from other agen­cies would pro­vide a real as­sess­ment of can­di­dates to con­sider for the job.

Causey asked “Is there any other city where the mayor hires for the po­lice depart­ment? Are you qual­i­fied to hire in that kind of depart­ment? I don’t see how you’d be qual­i­fied to do that job.”

Seiz also wanted to bring up a more spe­cific per­son­nel is­sue dur­ing the work ses­sion, and dur­ing the coun­cil meet­ing called for an ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion at the tail end of Thurs­day’s ses­sion, and ended with the de­ci­sion to place Taulbee on leave.

The de­ci­sion marked the fourth change of com­mand for the city this year. Aragon be­gan 2018 with Ri­ley as chief, then af­ter a de­mo­tion in Fe­bru­ary re­placed him with Brad Loyd.

Loyd re­signed in July to be re­placed by Taulbee as in­terim, and then now Ri­ley again for a se­cond time.

/ Kevin Myrick

Coun­cil mem­bers voted unan­i­mously to place Al­li­son Taulbee on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave with pay pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and to place Marc Ri­ley back in the po­si­tion as in­terim chief on Thurs­day, Sept. 20, 2018.

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