BELLE — The Belle Board of Aldermen on July 12 questioned Marshal Terry Connors about nuisance violations enforcement which led to a soft request and refusal for the administrator’s …
BELLE — The Belle Board of Aldermen on July 12 questioned Marshal Terry Connors about nuisance violations enforcement which led to a soft request and refusal for the administrator’s resignation.
Ordinance violations going unaddressed
Connors began a conversation under his department head report regarding a dilapidated building that came up at the June board meeting.
“Have you been serving these letters and following procedure for these ordinance violations,” Seaver asked.
Connors said no.
“Because you told me not to enforce the ordinances two weeks ago,” Connors began.
“No, I didn’t, I told you no such thing,” Seaver said.
Connors said Seaver did, because of the pit bulls.
“The dogs that got loose and stuff, and I come in two weeks ago and was looking at the ordinances and asked what you want me to do about it,” Connors said. “You said ‘give them a couple weeks to see what they’re gonna do.’ I have already been down there twice and the man told me ‘if I got to get insurance on a pit bull I’ll take them out to my father’s farm’ and I said ‘why didn’t you do that two months ago when you said you had no place to take them?’”
Seaver commented that he never said to not enforce the city ordinances.
“I think what I said was ‘let’s give them the opportunity to get the million and a half dollars worth of insurance on those three dogs,’” Seaver said. “That’s goin’ to take more than a week, especially with the 4th of July holiday.”
“For sure, for sure,” Connors said. “That’s the reason I didn’t say anything, but as a result, if I can’t enforce that how can I enforce the others at the same time? That’s not right.”
Seaver said Connors missed the whole point.
“I didn’t tell you not to enforce that ordinance, I said ‘let’s give them a week or two to get the insurance.’”
Connors commented that Seaver said to give them a couple of weeks.
“You said ‘she was in here today so give ‘em a couple of weeks,’” Connors said. “Ok, I’ll give ‘em a couple of weeks, but if I do that, I’m gonna give these other people the same couple of weeks to not enforce on them. I’ve talked to ‘em and flat told ‘em this is gonna become official and when it becomes official I can show ‘em in the ordinance, what they are facing — a minimum of a $5 fine, a maximum $500 fine and 90 days in jail.”
Alderman Daryl White Jr. asked Connors if he brought the board a list of all the people Connors said he has talked to.
“We talked about this last month, you are supposed to have a black and white copy of everybody you’ve talked to,” White said.
Connors said he did not bring a list of everyone he has talked to because his understanding from Seaver was to hold off a couple of weeks on the other people.
“I don’t understand what that has to do with what we discussed last time,” White said while Seaver agreed.
“That doesn’t have anything to do with the people’s properties,” Alderman Kayla Bray added.
White said they are going back to what they had before.
“We are going to go right back to what we have had for the past 10 years, warning people to clean these properties up but we are not going to do nothin’,” White began. “I mean, we’ve not talked about this house that has been here for 15 years, so should we give it another 15 years?”
Seaver asked Connors what else he had.
“I would like to start a reserve force, with your permission, of POST-certified reserve officers,” Connors said.
Seaver said Connors wasn’t asking for his permission and asked the board what they thought. Everyone spoke at once.
“We are contracted to Maries County,” Alderman Jeanette Struemph said.
“Before we authorize a POST certified reservee force I would like to see the marshal’s office POST certified,” White said.
Bray agreed with White.
Connors said he agrees.
“I am the administrative chief of police of this town,” Connors began.
White said he wanted to finish what he was saying.
“We are three months into a six-month trial period on you,” White said. “What is your plan to be certified in the next three months?”
Connors said he was just coming to that and White said he is asking now.
“I won’t be certified, I will be starting the training,” Connors said.
“You won’t be certified in three months?” White asked again and Connors said no, he will be starting the training.
“That is not what the ordinance says,” White said. “The ordinance says in six months that you will be certified. If you are not going to be certified, I think that, sooner or later, we are going to have to discuss this in-depth and I would rather it be sooner than later because we are trying to take steps to build back our police force and bring it back and as long as we’re beating around the bush here, in order to do that we are going to have to move forward. So you are telling me you have no plans to be certified in three months? Yes or no question.”
Connors said he doesn’t know if he can get certified in three months.
“But I do know that I can start the academy on the 22nd of August,” Connors began.
White asked why he waited three months into the six-month trial period to begin the training?
“Because you’ve got to wait for start dates,” Connors said. “The next class is starting on August 22 for the Lincoln University Academy. I am still waiting to hear back from the Missouri Sheriff’s Association Academy.”
“Hold on, if you’re not gonna be POST-certified, completely through your thing by October, I’m gonna ask for your resignation at this point,” Bray said.
“Well, you’re not gonna get my resignation,” Connors said. “You can ask all you want because I am the administrative chief of police of this town and as simple as that, the letter is up there with POST, they know I am the administrative chief of police and I have authority to conduct everything but arrests. Under state law, as long as I start within six months, even at my age, it can be done,” Connors said, slapping his table for emphasis.
White and Bray both said they weren’t saying it can’t be done.
“Did you read the requirements for this job when you ran for this office?” White asked Connors. “That’s all I am asking.”
Connors said he read them.
“And what did they say? From election time, six months,” White said. “I asked you last month and you told me you didn’t need to take the class, you had to transfer your stuff from Tennessee or South Carolina, or somewhere. Now you’re telling us you haven’t had no continued education the last 15 years, correct?” White asked.
Connors said he hasn’t had any continued education since the 90s.
“So 25 years,” White amended. “So the research I’ve done, there is nothing you can transfer in and no way you can become POST certified in the six months. So I’m just saying, in order to save us from being responsible from a bunch of liability, —,” White said.
Bray interrupted, “ What we are trying to say is come October you are done regardless if you can’t prove you have POST certification. That is the requirement to run for the marshal’s office.”
Seaver said that is by state statute.
“That is not state statute, that is incorrect,” Connors said. “You’ve been misled, mayor.”
Seaver read Connors the statute.
“Any person who is elected to his or her first term as city marshal in a general election or special election in a fourth-class city, shall, within six months of such an election, cause to be filed with the city clerk of the city and the director of the Department of Public Safety, proof that he or she has completed the training program pursuant to Sections 590.170 and 590.175 revised statutes of Missouri or some other comparable training program of not less than 120 hours of instruction (up to 620 hours now) approved by the director of the Department of Public Safety. If the new city marshal is unable to complete the training program within six months, due to the proper course not being available through the Department of Public Safety, an extension may be granted until such a course is made available. The city is not responsible for and will not pay for the cost of required training. This is the responsibility of the individual.”
“That’s correct,” Connors said. “And the class that starts on the 22 of August is 653 hours through Liberty University.”
Bray said that is good, but that is when the class starts. The Missouri State Statute says it has to be completed by six months.
“What did it say right there? May be extended,” Connors argued.
Bray said that is at the approval of the board.
“You are exactly right, I’m agreeing with you on that,” White said. “But three months ago you should have signed up for the class. Not now. There could have been something available three months ago.”
Connors insisted there was nothing available three months ago and White said he didn’t believe it.
“There actually was,” White said. “This is not something new. This has been an ordinance for I don’t know how long. We can’t rebuild our police department until we quit playing police. We’ve already missed our window is what I’m saying.”
Connors said he knows that.
“I’m trying to do what you want me to do,” Connors said.
“But you’re not qualified to do what we want you to do,” White argued.
“I know,” Connors said. “But you can extend that too,”
“We could choose to do that,” White agreed. “I think with the way our meeting’s going we don’t choose to extend that. I can only speak for myself, not the other three. We need POST-certified leadership here. I don’t understand and I am not trying to be a smart-aleck or disrespectful, maybe Mr. John can, but we’re pretty much just playing a police officer. What’s the difference in impersonating a police officer and what we are doing?”
John said the difference between an elected marshal and a police officer is the marshal can do the administrative duties of the office and enforce nuisance ordinances just like an abatement officer would.
“He has no authority to detain anyone, stop anyone on a traffic stop, detaining somebody’s civil rights — you can’t do that unless you are a commissioned police officer,” John said. “Then, yeah, you’re playing police officer. He needs to be careful about how he identifies himself, he can wear clothing identifying him as the marshal of the town. One-hundred percent fine. Identifying himself as a police officer or acting in a police capacity would tread into impersonating a police officer.”
White confirmed that the administrative position is what they have now and maybe it should be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hicks reminded the mayor that they cannot dictate the marshal’s hours.
“As far as the reserve police force, I am assuming that is a no from everybody on that?” Seaver asked and received multiple nods.
Connors said he didn’t have anything else to discuss.
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