Police Chief Fired ‘To Protect’ Public Safety, Public Welfare
Editor’s Note: See Page 1 article for detailed information about actions taken against former police Chief Brian Key.
LINCOLN — Lincoln City Council met in a special meeting Monday night to receive information firsthand on the timeline of the firing of the city’s police chief last week.
Like the rest of Lincoln, City Council members learned that former Chief Brian Key had been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation through a post on the city’s Facebook page on Oct. 24. Three days later, Mayor Rob Hulse fired him.
Hulse explained the meeting was called to provide information to the Council and to the public. From there, Hulse turned over the meeting to City Attorney Steve Zega.
Zega told Council members he would give them all the information he could about the city’s actions but with the understanding he was limited because of an ongoing investigation into allegations concerning Key.
At the request of the county prosecutor, Arkansas State Police is investigating Key because of multiple inquiries and concerns made about him. No information has been released yet on why Key was terminated or why he is under investigation.
Zega said State Police investigators were looking at the Lincoln Police Department’s evidence locker room about three weeks ago but city officials did not know what the investigation was about.
Zega said the decision was made then not to make any comments about the State Police visit for several reasons, including protecting the integrity of the investigation and as a protection for anyone being investigated in case allegations did not turn out to be true.
Last week, Zega said, he and Hulse received more information and decided to place Key on administrative leave and to inform the public as quickly as possible. Given the nature of the concerns and allegations, Zega said he believed it was imperative to let the public know about the administrative leave.
“The first concern was public safety and public welfare,” Zega said “Nothing I recommended outweighed that.”
The second reason to announce the administrative leave on Facebook, he said, was to protect the integrity of the Lincoln Police Department.
“It’s important we have a police department we can respect and trust,” Zega said.
The third concern was the potential civil liability for the city and Zega admitted, “I don’t know we’re out of that particular pickle just yet.”
Zega said he also wanted to do what was right for Key, if the investigation did not find any evidence of wrongdoing.
As more information came to him last week, including a video recording, Zega then recommended Hulse fire Key.
Zega said Key has the right to appeal the mayor’s decision to the City Council but the city’s personnel policy is unclear on the timing for an appeal. State laws also apply to an appeal and would take precedent over any city ordinances, Zega said.
Following Zega’s remarks, Hulse thanked Zega.
“It’s been a trying week,” Hulse said. “When the State Police was there, just as Steve said, we did not have a clear vision on why they were there. When it became apparent there was an issue, public safety was priority. That’s why we put out the press release and put it on Facebook.”
While Zega advised Hulse to place Key on administrative leave and then to fire Key, Hulse emphasized he is the one as mayor who made the decisions.
Hulse said when he reviewed a video tape related to allegations against Key, he knew he had to fire the chief.
“I knew we had to protect the citizens of Lincoln,” Hulse said.
He said he met with Key on Saturday morning and told him, “I had not choice but to terminate his employment.”
Hulse’s voice broke during the meeting as he spoke about his friendship with Key, saying, “I think the world of Brian. I still do.” He said he wants Key and his family to take care of what they need to move forward.
Hulse said the integrity of the police department is still intact and spoke of the integrity of the rest of the officers.
The city has advertised the police chief’s position and Hulse said the city “will have a chief of police who will meet the integrity of the rest of the department.”
He said the city will take the “necessary steps to get a quality leader in here,” adding, “We will get through this.”
After the meeting, Hulse said he hopes to have a new chief in place by December.