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Connell Police Chief terminated

January 20, 2022

“On January 4, 2022, the City of Connell decided to terminate the employment agreement with Police Chief Chris Turner...” said an official City of Connell press release received by the Franklin County Graphic (FCG) on Tuesday, January 11. City Administrator, Cathleen Koch, verified to FCG staff that the mayor terminated Police Chief Turner per the contract provision. The press release stated the mayor would appoint the interim police chief. The Graphic spoke with Mayor Lee Barrow, who stated they are working on bringing in an interim chief but hadn’t finalized anything at that time. The mayor told the FCG that the “interim will analyze the department, talk to officers, and see what’s going good and where improvements can be made to provide feedback to the department and city at this point.”

As word spread through the small community, the prevailing, big question on everyone’s mind was and still is “Why?”

Mayor Barrow said, “It’s an unfortunate position, but I can’t say more.” Since the news, many in the community have shared their support of Turner, expressing how they felt he was a “great police chief.” The overall feel of the community is that they want answers. Some feel he was terminated “without cause” because no reason is being given. Mayor Barrow stated in response to the community, “I appreciate and understand the concern but want to make it perfectly clear that, I and only I, made the decision to terminate the Chief of Police employment agreement. This was not a decision made by the city council or the city manager. They were advised, but it was ultimately my decision.”

Katrina Kunkel stated, “As a council member, what we were advised to say is, ‘ask the mayor’ for more information or if you have questions.” She added that the council did not vote on this decision.

While council does vote on many issues within the city, the mayor holds the right to hire and fire and does not need council approval to do so. The city administrator’s role is to oversee the day-to-day duties and finances of the city and its policies. Cities, like companies, are obligated to legalities such as employee privacy rights and defamation issues, which is why discussions regarding personnel matters are held behind closed doors within executive session.

The mayor added, “Per policy and ethical reasons I cannot go into detail on employee issues. Although, I will say this, it was not a decision made lightly and was a terribly difficult decision to make but one I found necessary.”

He added, “I wish Turner the best. It was just in the best interest going forward, at this point.” Chris Turner and his family shared that they are “devastated.” They have received legal council.

The press release concluded, stating, “recruitment will be conducted for a long-term replacement in the immediate future.” When asked about the potential to recruit from within the department, the mayor stated that staff can apply but he didn’t know if anyone is qualified for the position. The mayor said, “In the meantime, the Sergeants are stepping up to fill needs until we can get a chief in place.” He continued, “We are not going to rush it. I want to be sure to take the time needed to pick the right fit for the community with good management skills.”

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