Thursday, March 31, 2016

Police Chief Hire: Charter, Civil Service Rules Required Internal Hiring Decision

I was not planning to write about the hiring of Commander Barry Fox as St. Augustine's new police chief, effective November 2016.

However, upon reading some rather misguided criticism, here, I decided to opine.

The City Charter and ordinance governing hiring of the Police Chief and Fire Chief require hiring from within. The Charter provision was adopted by vote of some 77% of St. Augustine residents during the 1980s. The City Code of Ordinances states:

Sec. 2-54. - Filling of vacancies; chief of police or fire chief.
At the time of any vacancy for the position of chief of police or fire chief of the city, the civil service board or its examiner, subject to its approval, shall provide examinations and maintain a list of eligibles to appointment of chief of either the police or fire department and shall certify such list to the city manager and such vacancy shall be filled only from such list of eligibles. In the event that the city manager shall determine that no one on the list of eligibles shall be qualified to serve as chief of the fire or police department, then such civil service board shall prepare an additional list of eligibles for certification to the city manager from which such appointment shall be made.

Thus, the statement on Historic City News that no external or minority candidates were considered is misguided. One female candidate was considered, Commander Tania Michele Perry. She was not chosen.

If we want to amend the Charter or ordinances, we can talk about it. I personally favor outside searches, and have made that clear for years.

But to have rejected five qualified applicants and advertised externally would have violated the vested due process rights of five St. Augustine police officers under the Charter and ordinance 2-54, and would have risked a federal court civil rights lawsuit that the City might have lost, just as it did in the firing of a police chief in the 1980s.

St. Augustine City Manager John Patrick Regan, P.E. made the correct choice in hiring Barry Fox as Police Chief. Commander Fox has shown moral reasoning and growth in the job, as I understand from people who have seen his compassion in dealing with homeless people.

On the other hand, Commander Michelle Perry has a reputation for abusiveness and abrasiveness, which I can externally corroborate as an eyewitness in her treatment of septagenarians and octogenarians protesting the Iraq War downtown. Acting like a stereotypical Hollywood movie Southern hick hack badass cop, Michele Perry yelled at ladies and gentlemen who had protest signs with metal supports sticking into the dirt -- our dirt -- at the Bridge of Lions, threatening us with arrest. Arrest. Think about it. In our town. In our time. Some twenty feet away was a similar sign, pointing the way to an ice cream shop. She did not touch that sign. Her manner was nasty, brutish and bullying. She acted like a fool with a gun and a badge, a bully bullying citizens simply because we were anti-war. I was ashamed for our City.

In short, Michelle Perry is mean, mean, mean and might have subjected the City to civil rights liability with excessive force and bad decisions. Morale would also have been a problem. Michele Perry is not police chief material. Picking Michelle Perry would have been a huge mistake. She is the daughter of the late corrupt County Sheriff NEIL PERRY and the developers' corrupt ISSUES GROUP political action committee maven SYD PERRY, who vetted pro-developer candidates for St. Johns County Commission.

Picking Tania Michele Perry was widely predicted by St. Augustine cognizenti ten years ago, when WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS was City Manager, and ran St. Augustine as Republican Lord of All He Surveyed, dumping a landfill in a lake and favoring developers.

Not picking Perry -- and picking Barry Fox -- is a sign of wise leadership.

Some people resigned to a Perry regime were both surprised, and thrilled.

Three cheers for City Manager John Regan for choosing Barry Fox as our next Police Chief.

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