By Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON – The Williamson city council, embroiled in a controversy involving Police Chief Barry Blair, will meet in special session at 5 p.m., Wednesday, October 18, at city hall.
Dealing with the chief’s position was the lone item on the agenda, a receptionist said Tuesday afternoon.
Controversy arose concerning the chief’s position after it was originally announced that Blair was stepping down as chief. Rumors throughout the town focused on speculation that new Mayor Charlie Hatfield wanted to hire a different chief.
Blair has told media outlets that he felt Hatfield would employ a new chief. He said he asked the mayor for six months continued employment to allow him to find a new job and transition with the new chief. Blair said Hatfield did not respond to his request.
A tumultuous council meeting last Thursday resulted in Hatfield announcing that council had voted to fire Blair while in executive session on September 28. He had earlier made the same comment when he announced Blair’s firing to the public. State law prohibits any formal action by a governmental body while in executive session. Hatfield later told media representatives that the vote had been in error and would be addressed “at the next council meeting.”
In the meantime, the two sides say the matter remains in limbo. Blair said the mayor does not have the authority to terminate him and, since council’s vote was improper, he is still the chief.
During last Thursday’s council meeting, the group again went into executive session. Hatfield said council voted 3-1 to uphold his decision to terminate Blair. The mayor said City Attorney Josh Ferrell had advised council that they could vote in secret and announce the voter later.
Hatfield, when questioned about the vote in closed session, called it a “procedural error” that would be corrected either at the October 26 regular meeting or in special session.
Blair also took issue with Hatfield about the alleged reason for his termination. The chief said Hatfield had told members of the public that he (Blair) was discharged for misconduct. Blair said he has never been confronted with such allegations.
According to the mayor, Lieutenant Grady Dotson is serving as acting chief.
Council meetings are open to the public.