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Friday, July 1, 2016

Interim Manager Steve Hill and councilman Jesse Kerley respond to Shoap resignation controversy

Interim city manager Steve Hill talked Friday about the latest controversy in Crossville's operations and said a bit about what he felt led to the resignation of Crossville Police Chief Rod Shoap.

According to Hill and documents he provided, the interim chief position that Shoap held was only to be an 18 month position, a term that would have been up at the end of July. Hill said he had hoped to keep Shoap in the interim position until after the election to try and take some of the politics out of the situation, though he admitted it would be impossible to take all the politics out of the situation.

Hill said that while he had discussed Mr. Shoap's position with some of the council members, they all expressed opinions on the position but none ordered him to either fire or hire Mr. Shoap for the position full time. Previously Hill said he had discussed with Shoap staying in the position until after the election was over and Shoap said to him he didn't want to wait and he asked Hill to “either hire me or fire me.”

Hill said he wasn't certain but thought that Mr. Shoap had a conversation with one of the council members and then indicated he was open to staying through the election.

Hill said he felt that a recent meeting he had with Mark Rosser may have precipitated the resignation. According to Hill, the meeting, requested by Mr. Rosser was held at his office and Hill said he felt Mr. Shoap found out about the meeting and thought he was interviewing Rosser for the full time position. Hill said that was not the case but added, “Shoap had a knee jerk reaction and decided to turn in his resignation before he was fired.” Hill said this was just his personal opinion on what had happened.

When asked about the meeting, Rod Shoap said the meeting had nothing to do with his decision and he had complete trust in Mark Rosser. “I'd trust him with my life,” added Shoap.

Hill mentioned a recording of former city manager David Rutherford speaking to the police department about Shoap's hiring and saying that Rutherford Shoap would be interim and would not be eligible for the full time position. Hill said he hadn't heard the recording but Hill was present at a staff meeting with Rutherford before Hill left the parks department that Rutherford said who ever served as interim would not be the full time chief and that the position was to train a member of the department to take over when Shoap left.

Shoap started January 28, 2015 in the position and when announced it was listed as a temporary position. At the time, some 10 applications had been received and three of those interviewed. Names of the applicants were not released at the time.

While Hill said that when he checked with city attorney Will Ridley, Ridley said that 18 month period was not binding, Hill felt the city needed to follow the arrangements as it might affect future such agreements.

The reports that Jesse Kerley told him to fire Mr. Shoap are not true according to Hill who added that Kerley told him it was his decision. “I know exactly how he and Mr. Souza feel about Shoap,” said Hill and he added that Wyatt, Harris and Mayberry have not discussed the position with him.

According to Hill, the problem Kerley had with Shoap was not that he wanted people arrested but that Shoap had not done a report on the two incidents involving Pete Souza. Hill said he couldn't argue with Shoap's contention that make a report would just put it out in the media, but added, “Jesse asked him for a police report.”

Hill said that while Rutherford was still manager, they had put out a call for applications for a full time position and Shoap's was the only application that was received and not withdrawn. A second application was put in from the department but was taken back when he and Shoap were the only two applicants. Hill said he wasn't sure how Rutherford planned to get around the original hiring as a temporary position, but Shoap was the only applicant at the end of the process.

Hill was asked about the failure of the city to pay for police chief's meeting that Mr Shoap talked about in a previous story. Hill said he found out about the situation from Mr. Shoap. When he checked on it he said the check was not sent by the finance department as that would have been right at the end of the 18 months and they felt if Shoap wasn't staying the city shouldn't pay for the trip. He added that if Shoap was staying they could always still send in the check.

“It wasn't me that put a hold on it, finance caught it,” explained Hill. He added that Shoap and Mark Rosser were signed up to go. As it stands now, Rosser will attend the meeting.

When asked about Hill's contention, Shoap said that was not the same information his questions about the situation turned up. He was told that the canceling of the trip came from Hill.

There are also some concerns over an incident that so far has not resulted in any action or complaint against the city. Both Councilman Kerley and Steve Hill talked about an alleged incident involving a Crossville police officer, their sexual orientation and an significant other. The story being shared is that Shoap spoke to the officer and said they needed to get rid of their significant other then was contact by the significant other. Hill said that there was another employee that verified such an incident had taken place. At this point no names of those involved have been discussed at all.

When Shoap was asked about the situation he said that the matter was related to a report that had come to the department from a professor at a Georgia college related to a paper written by the officer's roommate that mentioned using the Crossville resident's firearm to self inflict harm on the writer of the paper. According to Shoap the situation was a problem because the officer's roommate was a convicted felon and that was a policy violation. Shoap said he had no idea about the employee's orientation and he didn't care, but he said that the fact that Mr. Kerley was putting out the information in the public would be a much bigger problem.

Shoap said his concern about his officer was so that there wouldn't be a problem with any potential domestic violence that might happen where officer could lose their right to have a weapon and would then be unable to do their job as an officer. He added that he has dealt with those kinds of things for 30 years and is certified in training those kinds of situations for officers. Shoap said he recently run such training for the sheriff's department.

“Everything chief Shoap told you is a bunch of trash,” said Jesse Kerley, “he'll be lucky if he doesn't cause the city to be sued.” Kerley said. He continued, “I never asked that man to arrest anybody. I did ask him to check Blankenship's insurance card because he doesn't have insurance on his car. I asked him to file a police report on Pete Souza vigorously elbowing me in the back after the February meeting which he never filed. That's why Chief Shoap don't like me, he's protecting Pete and nobody sees it.”

Shoap explained that he had in fact checked on the registration and insurance of Mr. Blankenship's vehicle and everything was in order. Shoap added that the evening of the June meeting, he had passed that information on to Mr. Hill and asked him to pass it along to Mr. Kerley.

After discussing a situation that involved an attempt to set up a meeting between councilman Kerley, chief Shoap and school director Donald Andrews, a meeting that never took place as Mr. Andrews declined to set up the meeting, Kerley said that he did not tell employees to do stuff, but he had asked the city manager what I can and can't do because, “if you step outside of that charter you have personal liability and they can sue me for doing that and I know that.”

Kerley described Shoap as “a better politician then anyone sitting on that city council."

Kerley added, "You tell the public that I've never had my butt crawled so hard over an issue except when David Rutherford hired Chief Shoap when there was capable officers in that department that could have been hired.”  

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