Thursday, June 16, 2011
Chief Pearson retires
By SUE WATSON
Chief Robert Pearson, who joined the city of Holly Springs as police chief November 1, 2006, tendered his resignation at the June 7 board of aldermen meeting.
He made no explanatory remarks and the board voted unanimously to accept his retirement request.
His resignation came at the end of the meeting after most of the open business of the evening had taken place. Pearson said he has no plans to work immediately, but he probably will take another job. Meanwhile he will continue to live in the city until his circumstances change.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry thanked Pearson for his service and offered kindnesses.
In a separate interview last week, Pearson said he chose to leave.
“I would like to go quietly,” he said.
He said he was unaccustomed to running a department the way the one was operated in Holly Springs.
“This is my first situation like this,” he said. “Normally they entrust the police chief with hiring and firing and problems would be (resolved) between the board and the chief.”
Pearson said there are people on the board making decisions with “little or no knowledge of police work.”
“I felt like the board didn’t have confidence in what I was doing,” he said. “So, I felt like I would step aside and allow the board to do what they want to do.”
Pearson said he has good feelings for the people of Holly Springs.
“Holly Springs has some of the nicest people anywhere and I appreciate all the support I got from the people in Holly Springs,” he said. “My support basically came from the citizens. And I don’t have words to express my appreciation for it.
“In my retiring (in retrospect), I think we all could have done a better job, if we had some resources and a little better understanding. I felt the public expressed their concern and they expect a certain level of police services. If I could not get the resources and support, I could not provide those services. That bothers me, and I know it is needed.
“That’s why I don’t feel good about this, because I believe in my heart we could have done a better job.”
Pearson said he will continue to be a part of the community.
He served six years, three on active duty, in the U.S. Marine Corps, including one tour in Vietnam and the remaining years at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.
Pearson spent the next 25 years or so in Michigan where he worked security for Saginaw Steering Gear with General Motors, then became a Michigan state trooper. He moved up the ranks of commander working in a number of posts with the Michigan State Police. He spent two years as deputy police chief for the city of Chattanooga, Tenn., and two years with the Detroit Transit Corporation before taking the position as chief of police in Holly Springs almost five years ago.
In other business, the board:
• approved a Main Street Association request to hold a Biker’s Night in “Blues Alley” on Thursday evenings from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. each week beginning July 14 and ending September 29. The event was immensely successful in turnout last year.
Charles Terry with the committee and Rebecca Bourgeois, Main Street executive director, asked the city to provide security for the event and clean-up and to provide street lighting. They asked that Falconer Avenue to North Center Street be closed for the event and that North Center Street be blocked at the intersection with College Avenue.
Alderman Calvin James asked if there were any disturbances last year. Terry said there was only one police action and that occurred on the last Thursday of the season.
James asked if alcoholic beverages would be restricted.
Terry said it was not promoted by the committee.
“There may have been some problems we were not informed of as a committee,” he said. “There was a problem with open containers.”
Event insurance will be purchased, the mayor said.
• heard a concern from Telsa DeBerry about a recent meeting of the board of aldermen. He suggested that the duties of the board of aldermen are to take care of the large responsibilities of the city, but not to “get bogged down in hiring in a department.”
He called it “a little futile for a distinguished board.” He said the board had discussed at length the prospects for building and grounds but gave no vote on candidates for jobs at the police department. He said the department heads should be given the power to hire and fire.
“It is micromanagement when you have put in time to hire qualified department heads,” Telsa DeBerry said.
“You are stating we should allow department heads to do the hiring and firing of employees?” asked James.
“A board of this level is responsible for the entire city,” Telsa DeBerry said. “I would think the mayor would be in charge of managing the department heads and, if protocol is in place, you would rubber stamp it (the mayor’s choice).”
James said the board takes into consideration the recommendations of the department heads and is responsible for hiring and firing. State law gives the board the final say, James said.
Telsa DeBerry continued that it would be hard to find a case of the city of Memphis getting bogged down on hiring matters.
“This is protocol as far as I understand and something we have to do,” James said.
Telsa DeBerry pointed out that a recommendation the chief of police made for a new hire died for lack of a second.
“My concern is the board is macro-management, not micro-management of the city,” he said.
Mayor DeBerry said state law gives municipal boards authority to hire and fire and they have to approve or not approve a department head’s recommendation.
“The natural flow is for the recommendation from the department heads to come to the board to either accept or reject,” the mayor said.
Telsa DeBerry said he believes competent department heads will stay if they are empowered to function, but if they are not, they will not be motivated to stay.
“Competent and qualified individuals (department heads) will not,” he said.
After Telsa DeBerry took his seat, Lisa Liddy confronted Mayor DeBerry for letting Telsa DeBerry speak without being on the agenda.
“I recall a couple of weeks ago, I came before the board and was told I could not speak,” she said. “I feel slighted.”
“Typically, community concerns (are heard),” said the mayor. “I don’t know if the board chose to speak. Alderman James chose to speak.”
“I asked to be put on the agenda,” Liddy replied.
“Please don’t make it seem like you were slighted,” the mayor said.
“It (Telsa DeBerry’s concern) was not on the agenda,” Liddy said.
“OK,” the mayor said.
• discussed purchasing warning sirens for the fire department, a topic brought forward by alderman Harvey Payne.
Mayor DeBerry said the sirens would be brought up for the next budget year.
“We will put together a budget packet for you,” said fire chief Kenny Holbrook.
Payne said he received calls from citizens during recent storms asking about sirens.
The mayor said the cost in this budget is prohibitive, but it will be brought up in the next fiscal year budget.
“It is on the front burner, you can count on that,” said Holbrook.
• discussed and approved a concert request from Walker Howell Jr. to memorialize his father on the 18th. The board approved the request pending the extravaganza be a non-profit affair and any proceeds go to a specified charity.
• approved a new agreement with North East Mississippi Electric Power Association that specifies cost sharing if a major transformer has to be replaced. It also includes line maintenance from Holly Springs to Waterford Mountain Road.
• adopted a gas rate schedule with Tennessee pipeline.
• approved an assessment of the street and parking lot at Van Dorn near Chesterman Street. Public works director Michael Crittle said stress cracks in Van Dorn and the parking lot indicate a repair of the utilities in the area in 2005 may not be holding up.
• discussed a silting problem on Robert Cato’s property.
• passed a motion to study an erosion problem at a pipe on Rising Star Road.
• approved a motion to accept a performance improvement plan for city employees.
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