December 12, 2017 10:33:12 AM
On Monday, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith confirmed that police chief Oscar Lewis has given notice he will be retiring at the end of the year.
Smith said he had "no idea" that Lewis had planned to retire. This claim seems dubious since the city's five-month "improvement plan" for Lewis coincided with the amount of time Lewis needed to be fully vested in the state's retirement plan, something Lewis acknowledged prior to the formulation of the plan in late August.
On Aug. 1, the long-awaited review on the city's police department by consultant K.B. Turner was presented, a 95-page document that was a scathing indictment of Lewis' performance as police chief. Turner stated plainly that Lewis was not fit for the position.
In the aftermath of the report, neither the mayor nor the city council expressed any disagreement with those findings. In fact, the mayor even talked of extending Turner's contract, further evidence of agreement with Turner's conclusions.
Given that, the appropriate action would have been to follow those recommendations and remove Lewis from his leadership position and begin the search for a new police chief.
Instead, the council came up with a "five-month improvement plan" that allowed Lewis to leave on his own terms.
It is clear the city abdicated its duty in choosing to retain Lewis, although there may be some who suggest allowing Lewis to remain was a nice gesture by the city.
Yet we question the city's priorities on this matter. Putting the interests of a single employee over the interest of the citizens of Columbus is something that cannot be justified.
When city departments, especially one so critical to the welfare of our city as the police chief, are not led by effective individuals who are held accountable, we expect changes to be made expeditiously.
The five-month lapse between the release of the Turner report and Lewis' resignation may have benefited Lewis, but we cannot imagine a way in which it benefited the city.
It is an example of the kind of poor judgment than undermines confidence in our elected leaders.
Whose interests are they really protecting?
Cases like this make us wonder.
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