Chief-hire gaffe belongs to candidate, council
With Robert Jones off the table, the city is back at the beginning. Jones was the police chief from Georgia who had made his way to the top of the list of candidates in the running for the Pine Bluff police chief position. He might have been making plans right now to come here, but that’s not happening. Most of the blame is his, although the Pine Bluff City Council can take some of that as well. For his part, he said coming to Pine Bluff was the result of divine intervention. Through his own prayer, God had led him here. Specifically, while visiting Pine Bluff, he said the decision was not about the money. That was, until it was about the money. And to be precise, about $25,000. That was the difference between what the position paid and what he ended up asking for when he was offered the job. Put another way, he asked for almost 28% more than what the job paid. Some would have ended the conversation there, but Mayor Shirley Washington really liked him — actually, a lot of people liked him — and she asked the council to get the chief’s position pay up. On Monday night, when that would have happened, it didn’t. At that point, Washington had to call Jones and tell him the moment had passed and he should just move on. Not to sound insensitive here, but how does one move on from a place when God has led one to that place? Would not a God-led person have said, “oh, never mind about the money. I’m on my way”? Perhaps God was leading Jones here only if Jones could get the pay up to $115,000. We’ll never know, what with the mysterious ways in which God moves. On the other end of the blame continuum is the city council. One can’t fault them for wanting to get the pay up for all police and fire employees, but they scuttled the whole process by trying to wedge that larger issue into the mayor’s request to get one person’s pay up. When all was said and done, the tab was too much for the city to handle at this time so none of it got done. So now we have Lloyd A. Franklin Sr., who was named the interim police chief. He made a career in the Arkansas State Police, reaching the rank of captain and serving as commander of Troop E in Pine Bluff. Washington said Franklin will likely be in charge until January. That may be just what the doctor ordered. He is a highly respected law officer who, as the mayor said, will maintain the stability and integrity of the department with an eye on keeping morale up. His hiring will also give the mayor and council the breathing room they need to figure out the pay for that one position and also for the fire chief and other police and fire individuals. They will also have more time to see how the city’s finances are doing. And it will give the mayor time to restart the search for a qualified individual. The police chief’s position is the most important job the mayor has to fill. We applaud the members of the search committee for identifying Jones. He was impressive. We hope they have it within themselves to do it all over again. Getting this wrong isn’t an option. Oh, and best wishes, Chief Franklin. It’s an interim gig, but it’s also a half year, and a lot can happen in that length of time.