Harrodsburg votes no on hiring new police officer

July 14, 2004|ANN HARNEY

HARRODSBURG - The hiring freeze adopted by the Harrodsburg City Commission caused a rare public dispute among commissioners Tuesday that ended with a 3-2 vote not to replace a departing police officer.

Police Chief Ernie Kelty asked commissioners for permission to hire a new officer to replace one who is leaving the force. Kelty's request came in spite of a hiring freeze adopted with this year's budget and in place until at least October.

City Clerk Lorene Hembree said the city will not receive substantial income from payroll and insurance premium tax payments until mid-October and the commission is scheduled to review its finances then.

"We have to justify hiring in the new fiscal year,'' said Commissioner Eddie Long.

But Commissioner Jack Springate, the elected official charged with overseeing police, fire and communication departments, strongly disagreed.

"Are we going to neglect the safety of the people of Harrodsburg?'' Springate asked.


Springate said he recalled discussing the hiring freeze and he said he thought critical employees would be replaced.

"If a police officer is not critical ...'' Springate began and then stopped in mid sentence. "What's it going to take to justify hiring" a police officer?

Kelty said there are 18 sworn officers in the Harrodsburg Police Department, but that includes himself and the assistant chief. He said he already had begun background checks on some people who had applied for the opening.

"It's not an automatic rehiring,'' Long said. "We'd just like to see (the need) demonstrated. I'll probably agree (to the replacement.)"

Long said he wanted to see the scheduling needs and the overtime it would cost if the officer is not replaced.

Commissioner Joe Hood said, "I think we were to discuss each and every replacement. I will vote no until we do a review.''

Springate made the motion to hire a replacement officer and Commissioner Kevin Perkins seconded the motion. The two men voted to allow Kelty to make a hire, but Hood, Long and Mayor Lonnie Campbell voted no.

"This is not against the police department,'' said the mayor.

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