Aragon votes for fourth interim chief in 2018
Council places Taulbee on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation
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.
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.