The Monroe Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board voted earlier this week to reject Mayor Friday Ellis’ request that the board seek more applicants for Monroe police chief.
Currently, four applicants are scheduled to take the examination for chief of police, including interim Monroe Police Chief Reginald “Reggie” Brown, who was widely believed to be former Mayor Jamie Mayo’s favorite for the job. Besides Brown, the other applicants are Monroe Police Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Johnson, Monroe Police Sgt. Thomas Rhodes and Kevin Strickland.
During a meeting Monday afternoon, the Civil Service Board voted, 3-2, to ignore Ellis’ request and continue with the current pool of four candidates.
After the examination, Ellis will interview the applicants and may choose to recommend a certain applicant for the job to the Monroe City Council. The mayor also has the authority to conduct the interviews but decline to appoint any applicant, meaning the Civil Service Board must call for a second round of applications and exams.
In spite of that possibility, the Civil Service Board elected to proceed with the smaller pool. Remarks made by people opposing Ellis’ request, including board members, indicated their broader opposition to Ellis’ new role as mayor. (Ellis was sworn in Tuesday, the day after the meeting.)
Speaking of Ellis, Civil Service Board member Vic Harris said, “He can’t just say, ‘I don’t like the way this city is running so I’m going to stop everything.’”
Initially, Harris argued it was not fair to make the current four candidates wait to take the examination. Harris and others referred to an apparently commonly held belief that few people had applied for the position of police chief because many expected Mayo to secure re-election and appoint Brown to the post.
“The people that did not apply, that’s on them,” Harris said. “They already missed the deadline.”
Monroe attorney Jessica Williams, who is representing Brown in a handful of legal matters, echoed Harris’ objection.
Tyrone “K-9” Dickens, who has frequently campaigned for Mayo, described Ellis’ request as an affront to the former mayor.
“It’s like a slap in the face to the ex-mayor,” Dickens said.
Rhodes — one of the four applicants — indicated that he, unlike other people, expected Ellis to win instead of Mayo, but urged the Civil Service Board to open up the application process anyway.
“Apparently, I’m the only chief candidate who thought Friday Ellis might win,” Rhodes said. “I am the prospect that does not require a mulligan.”
“I say open it up, and put as many names on it as you want,” he added.
Ray Clary, who is retired from the Monroe Police Department, pointed out that the current four applicants would remain in the running for the position, even if more applications were accepted.
“The four people will remain on that list,” Clary said. “I feel any administrator should be able to get a bigger pool of people that might fit his administration’s goals. That’s not excluding them from meeting those administrative goals.”
Civil Service Board member Benjamin “Ben” Baw also noted the process could be delayed further by not calling for more applications.
“If we run with these four candidates, and he chose to exhaust this list, we’re back to square one,” Baw said. “I just feel like if we run with this test with four candidates, we could be back here calling for a new test.”
Hardeman Cordell Sr., who chairs the Civil Service Board, said Ellis sent a letter to the Civil Service Board on July 15, asking the board to call for more applications for the sake of having a “bigger pool” of candidates and a “transparent transition.”
Cordell offered the motion to approve Ellis’ request. Baw seconded the motion. They also voted in favor of the motion while Civil Service Board members Harris, Alfred Rayford and Craig Turner voted against Ellis’ request.
Assistant City Attorney Brandon Creekbaum told the Civil Service Board the city planned to ask the Office of State Examiner to extend Brown’s appointment as interim police chief until November.