May 16, 2018 10:49:42 AM
Zack Plair - [email protected]
Columbus City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved hires for two key positions in the police department, though city officials would not publicly announce the hires.
City officials have confirmed to The Dispatch the council tapped Edrick C. Hall of Indianola as assistant police chief and Stacey V. Deans as captain of investigations pending the results of pre-employment screenings.
Hall's annual salary will be $66,000, while Deans will make $59,000 to lead the department's criminal investigations division.
Hall has 18 years of law enforcement experience, serving the last two years as Indianola police chief. Before that, he worked nine years as police chief at Inverness.
Deans boasts 27 years in law enforcement, currently as deputy chief of police at Scooba. He's also worked stints as commander of operations for Moss Point police, a state gaming enforcement agent, a senior investigator for the Mississippi Attorney General's Office, and as a sheriff's deputy in both Lowndes and Noxubee counties. He was the elected chief of police in Scooba from 2006-08.
Hall fills the vacancy left by former assistant chief Fred Shelton who was promoted to police chief in January. Deans replaces Brent Swan, who left Columbus Police Department in March to take an investigative position with Lowndes County Sheriff's Office.
On Tuesday, however, the council approved the hires without announcing the preferred candidate's identities during the public meeting at the Municipal Complex, and Shelton refused to identify the hires when pressed afterward.
"I can't release that right now," Shelton told The Dispatch. When asked why not, he replied, "Because I'm not releasing that right now."
City Attorney Jeff Turnage said after the meeting preferred candidates for city positions often aren't made public until after the pre-employment screenings -- which include a drug test and physical -- are complete.
Officials also have confirmed to The Dispatch that Corporal Eric Lewis, who was appointed criminal investigations division supervisor on May 7, began Wednesday serving an unpaid suspension of 20 working days he received three years ago for mishandling evidence.
The council suspended Lewis in January 2015 after the officer allegedly ordered evidence in a drug investigation destroyed. Lewis lost appeals of his suspension before both the Civil Service Commission and Lowndes County Circuit Court. However, The Dispatch reported Sunday he had never served his time.
That news came among a flurry of employee discipline hearings the council fielded during a more than two-hour executive session Tuesday, according to a source with direct knowledge of those discussions.
Fire and Rescue Chief Martin Andrews will serve a one-day unpaid suspension for an incident in December 2017 where he backed a city vehicle into another vehicle, city officials confirmed. The council also suspended CPD training officer and inventory clerk Liz Patrick for a day and placed her on a 60-day plan for improvement.
Councilmen, however, rejected recommendations for disciplinary action for two other CPD employees, patrol officers Tabertha Hardin and Rhonda Sanders, according to the source.
Hardin, who Shelton transferred from CID to patrol and replaced her with Lewis, was recommended for suspension for insubordination, the source said.
Sanders was previously recommended for suspension for allegedly lying about how her patrol unit was dented. The council referred the matter to the city's accident review board, which recommended a written reprimand. However, on Tuesday, the council rejected that recommendation, as well.
In other business, the council:
■ approved a Planning Commission recommendation to rezone the former Lee Middle School property (roughly 15 acres) on Military Road from single-family residential (R-1) to neighborhood commercial (C-1), which would allow an interested development group to build a mixed-use project at the site; and
■ approved a low bid of $12,440 from Columbus-based Copper Top Construction to repair roof leaks at the recently renovated City Hall.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.