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Ordinance authorizes classification of police position with pay ranging from lieutenant to assistant chief

By Bill ShortFlag City Logo

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has unanimously passed an ordinance on final reading that authorizes a police position with salary ranging from lieutenant to assistant chief.
Board members took the action during their April 14 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Hank Hawkins and seconded by Alderman Frankie Dakin.
The ordinance also establishes a new classification for a lead dispatcher/jailer position in the police department, as well as new job titles and descriptions in the Arts and Recreation Department.
It states that, as a “blueprint” for controlling the city’s resources, the Position Control Budget and Compensation Policy is subject to changes during the year to reflect the “changing environment” and the needs of the city.
The ordinance authorizes Mayor Terry Jones and Interim City Manager Chris Dorsey, in “consultation” with a new police chief, to establish a position in the police department as a classification no lower than lieutenant and no higher than assistant chief in pay level between $47,276 and $54,054.
Shortly before the vote, Alderman Thomas McGhee said the ordinance acknowledges the service that Interim Police Chief Rita Stanback has provided to the city and allows her to remain in a “leadership role.”
Stanback was a lieutenant in the department when she was appointed in June 2012 by then-interim mayor Linda Carter after the resignation of former chief Ray Douglas.
At its Feb. 17 meeting, on a motion offered by Alderman Mike Caruthers and seconded by Alderman Bethany Huffman, the board voted to keep Stanback as interim police chief while advertising an opening for the permanent position.
The motion was passed by five affirmative votes, with Hawkins and McGhee absent.
Shortly before that vote, then-interim city manager Mike Chesney noted that The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service was reviewing all the city’s departments on their training, leadership, staffing and equipment.
Citing “many conversations” with Stanback about how the police department should “develop,” he said they agreed that “now is the time” to bring in a police chief who has the “experience and knowledge” to carry the department to the “next level.”
While commending her for the “great job” she has done as “interim chief,” he requested that she be allowed to continue in that capacity during the search process.
As the next police chief “redesigns” the department and his “programs,” Chesney said, Stanback will be given all the “training” she needs to continue the “great career path that she is on.”
During the portion of the April 14 meeting designated for Public Comments, Fred Bailey of 6964 Northknoll Drive asked why the board would vote to “remove” someone who it said was doing “such a magnificent job.”
While acknowledging that he could not speak for the board, Dakin said Stanback did “a great job” with what she had to deal with when she was appointed.
“Many of you are aware that the situation she came into was not the best for a police chief,” he noted. “And Chief Stanback came in with fewer qualifications than would typically be associated with someone who has been appointed to police chief.”
Dakin said Stanback’s “stepping down” and the board’s advertising of the opening for the permanent position were the result of conversations with her as well as Chesney.
In response to a question by Bailey, Caruthers said Stanback’s annual salary is approximately $62,000.
Bailey said it has been the city’s practice for “quite some time” that the police and fire chiefs make the same salary. He noted that, in 2011, they both made more than $64,000.
But even if it was “past practice,” Dakin said, that does not mean it was the “best” practice. He noted that the police and fire departments are not the same size and do not have to deal with the same “personnel or issues.”
The city’s advertisement of the permanent police chief position lists it as a Grade 12. In response to a question by Bailey, City Finance Director John Trusty said the entry-level salary for that grade is $57,000, and the maximum pay is $95,000.
While noting that Stanback’s salary was selected by Carter, Trusty said it was higher than the starting pay for a department director.
“I don’t know why she’s stepping down,” Bailey said. “But you all are not able to provide answers to basic questions about why she has to go.”
James Earl Holmes of 7832 W. Navy Circle said he believes the board was “shortchanging” the residents with the answers it gave. He recalled that Carter appointed Stanback to be the chief, not the interim chief.
“If she was a chief, she’s a chief,” he said, “and she still should get the same pay. Not the interim chief gets this, and the chief gets that.”
McGhee questioned the “appropriateness of this forum” to address all the questions that were raised. But he noted that the board does not evaluate department directors or counsel employees.
Because he was not at the Feb. 17 meeting, McGhee reminded the residents that he did not vote to advertise the permanent position. He acknowledged that “a lot of things” are happening, and they just see the “end result” of them.
“We pledged transparency,” he noted. “And where we can, without violating someone else’s rights to privacy, we want to do that.”
Bitha Luze of 6888 Richard Wilson Drive said there are positions that a woman “has no business in whatsoever.”
“But Rita was made the chief,” she said. “And as far as we all know, she’s done an excellent job. If she was a man, she’d be making the same salary as a man made.”
The advertisement of the permanent position was scheduled to end on April 16. Although more than 30 applications had been received, Dorsey said he would not look at any of them until then.

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