W. Buechel council meeting ends abruptly after police chief debate

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by Brooke Hasch

WHAS11.com

Posted on April 29, 2014 at 11:52 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 30 at 6:15 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A special council meeting for the small city of West Buechel, in Louisville, came to an abrupt end Tuesday night.

It came after a heated debate about the mayor's newly appointed police chief. Our cameras were rolling during the confrontation between council members, which also created a surprise request from the mayor.

"The video recording shall not take place while the meeting is in progress," West Buechel Mayor Sharon Fowler said.

A city council member quickly questioned Fowler, knowing the media had every right to be there.

"Are you sure that's in compliance?" Loy Crawford, a councilman asked.

"Yes," several people on the council murmured.

Our cameras continued to roll, even after one man in the crowd decided to step in front of them, blocking our view.

The first item on the agenda involved the recent appointment of an interim police chief for the city, after the news of Chief Jeff Manning's resignation, set to take effect on May 2. The mayor sent notice to the community announcing she had appointed a sergeant to the job, a lone decision the council says it should have been involved in.

"Whoever is appointed, I want to investigate what they've done in their career. To question the situation most definitely," Toby Clark, a councilman said.

Clark says the issue goes beyond a council's preference. The city's attorney admitted, that in the past, the mayor made decisions based on a city ordinance that allowed her to hire and fire any city official, but Genon Hensley recently found a state statute that stated otherwise.

"Basically, what we came to was, the mayor will appoint, recommend, somebody for the chief of police and then the city council will need to approve that," Hensley said.

Before the mayor could formally make her recommendation, the council ran into another issue.

"This is an illegal meeting," Elizabeth Bierbaum said.

A councilmember noticed an addition to the night's agenda she'd signed before it made the page.

"Should we go home, or what should we do?" Crawford said.

And with that, the meeting came to an end, without a decision.

The city council has scheduled another special meeting for this Thursday at 5 p.m. There, they will once again discuss the issue of the police chief's appointment, as well as the other items on the original agenda.

If no agreement can come by May 2, there's a possibility the city of West Buechel may have to temporarily shut its police department down, a force about a dozen officers.
 

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