Former Belle alderman, police chief discuss cracks in board

Continue to support establishment of PD

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 11/9/22

BELLE — A former Belle alderman and the police chief cited the mayor and one alderman’s actions and attitude to be out of control and unreasonable as the reasons for their Nov. 1 …

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Former Belle alderman, police chief discuss cracks in board

Continue to support establishment of PD

Posted

BELLE — A former Belle alderman and the police chief cited the mayor and one alderman’s actions and attitude to be out of control and unreasonable as the reasons for their Nov. 1 resignations.

During a two hour meeting on Monday afternoon, former alderman Kayla Bray and former police chief Joe Turnbough explained the reasons they resigned — although submitting their letters at the same time was coincidental.

“The mayor over stepped himself,” Turnbough said. “He was unreasonable — the schedule was unreasonable. He wanted control over everything.”

Turnbough added that aside from Bray, he didn’t feel he had the support of the board.

Bray, who took office in July and filled the Ward 2 seat of former alderman Sundi Jo Graham, agreed with Turnbough’s description and added reasons of her own.

“Honestly, this board doesn’t care about the rules,” Bray said. “It’s sad to say but they (not all of them) would rather attack their own than be concerned with the citizens’ interests on things. The amount of hours I put in, over 100 hours weekly, without acknowledgment; I was chastised for not doing a better job while no one else helped; and then the board accused me of a sex scandal and accused me of being too personal.”

Bray took office in July as the board was experiencing in-fighting. However, when the former mayor stepped down and Daryl White, Jr., took over, the two appointed officials seemed to be of like mind.

“Daryl said he wanted to be transparent,” Bray said. “He asked ‘can you help me do that?’ I said yes, we could Facebook Live the meetings. He kept saying he wanted to be transparent and then everything started going secret.”

By the end of August, the city was well on its way to re-establishing the Belle Police Department.

“When Daryl and I got on the board we wanted to bring the police department back, but then we started butting heads over how it should be ran,” Bray said. “It was running smooth, until we disagreed on how it should be done.”

In August, the board began advertising for a chief of police, and in a special meeting on Aug. 29 they hired former marshal Joe Turnbough.

“When I got hired it was agreed to pay the deputies $20 an hour and myself $25,” Turnbough said. “I couldn’t afford to go backwards. I left a good job.”

It was at this point that White charged Bray with re-establishing the police department.

“Daryl had made the comment that the police department was going to be my baby because he had a business to run and he didn’t have time to oversee the day-to-day,” Bray said. “I took it and ran with it and did what I could do to help Joe (Turnbough) and Jerry (Coborn) get the PD back up and running. But in the long run, all I did was get chastised for everything I tried to do.”

Bray said her phone was constantly “blown up” by the mayor, complaining about everything Turnbough did or didn’t do. He was out of control.

“It was always about me,” Turnbough said. “It was always negative.”

During the special meeting where Turnbough was hired, Bray said he was told that he would be in charge of re-establishing the police department and that he would be the administrator. After he was hired, he was told something else.

“The mayor told me the chief is just a title, I have no admin authority, that falls under him,” Turnbough said. “My job, he said, was to follow his directives. He came up with a schedule for Jerry and I to work. Throughout that time I worked (beginning around Oct. 19 when the mayor took over scheduling) a lot of overtime, I don’t think I worked a 40 hour week ever. I didn’t charge the city any overtime because I wanted to hire more officers. Right before I resigned I put in 91 hours, worked eight days straight, and never turned in overtime. If I worked the full schedule it would have been 112 hours.”

White consistently worked Turnbough and his one officer for 12 hours and then would have them come back less than seven hours later. He promised to hire more officers, but even the city treasurer said they couldn’t afford it.

Bray said White always wanted the PD to write more tickets — even before they were legally allowed because they hadn’t re-established everything yet.

“Daryl said he wasn’t going to give another dime if they weren’t writing tickets,” Bray said. “You can’t start and then stop.”

Turnbough said he told the mayor ticket revenue would come in when they had more people and the police department was officially established. Bray said there was so much research to get everything going and to figure out who to call and how to do it.

“They wanted me to do all of the leg work and criticize me in the long run,” she said. “The police department was my baby, but nothing I did was good enough for it.”

She said she was attacked because of her age and her inexperience serving in a public office, but it was when she was nominated to serve as mayor pro tem — a position that was not awarded to anyone last month because of a lack of consensus, that she felt Alderman Jeanette Struemph began to attack.

“She has it stuck in her head that she has been on the board the longest so she thought she deserved it,” Bray said. “She said she’s been telling people around town that I am too young and inexperienced and then recanted that she wasn’t saying any of that.”

Bray said the situation escalated a month ago during a closed session meeting when Struemph accused Bray of having an affair because she was in Turnbough’s company so much,

“In that closed meeting she brought it up to me, not both of us, just me,” Bray said. “She said ‘citizens were talking.’ I haven’t heard anything.”

She did acknowledge that re-establishing the police department takes time.

“There is so much paperwork when setting up the police department,” Bray explained. “The last thing we did was drive up to Jefferson City to get the dispatch channels up and running. Joe signed the paperwork while we were there and we needed the serial numbers on each of the radios, but didn’t have them all with us.”

They drove back to the Belle police department to write down serial numbers and drove back up to submit them.

“In the process, on our way back, Daryl calls and wants to meet with Joe and I because citizens were complaining because they seen the cop car going out of town too much,” Bray said. “The city doesn’t have people to install police lights, car radios, decals — everything is ran through Jefferson City. Daryl asked ‘couldn’t (serial numbers) be faxed?’ Yes, but then it would be sitting on someone’s desk for a couple of weeks and Daryl wanted everything done now.” 

Turnbough said White wanted to know why everything took so long.

“He wanted to know why Osage County wasn’t dispatching yet,” Turnbough said. “He wanted nothing to do with Maries County Sheriff’s Department and they were dispatching for us.” 

The shortage of manpower prompted a conversation between Turnbough and Major Scott John with the sheriff’s department.

“Because two people cannot give the city 24-hour coverage seven days a week, Scott John wanted to meet with me for lunch and the mayor was livid,” Turnbough said. “Scott said ‘you guys are short staffed and so are we. We don’t want to hire someone for two months. What do you say we use my guys and you and Jerry to rotate people?”

Turnbough asked John if the city could split the $4,000 weekly and only pay $2,000 if the shared the coverage and John agreed.

“I was saving $2,000 a week, $8,000 a month until the transition was done,” Turnbough said.

Turnbough said between that conversation and telling Maries County at a later date that he was on duty and the sheriff’s department could begin moving their things out of the local office, White “blew a gasket.”

“Daryl blew a gasket and said I was trying to interfere with what he was doing,” Turnbough said. “He made a statement that if Maries County was short a couple of guys they were in breach of contract. But they didn’t say they couldn’t do it, just that they was short. Why Daryl didn’t want to do it, save the city money and give more coverage, is a question only he can answer.”

Turnbough said any conversations between himself and Maries County resulted in a comment from the mayor that he was speaking with the enemy.

“I think we could have worked with them and made the transition a lot easier,” Bray agreed. “I thought we were voting for 90 days to end the contract. Daryl didn’t want that. He was looking for a breach of contract to get them out.”

Bray said they could have saved the city officers the stress before Maries County pulled out completely.

“I specially said we cannot have our people tired,” Bray said. “I don’t think they understand that two guys can’t cover the entire city.”

Then the marshal’s salary was discussed. Turnbough said he was told the marshal’s salary would be changed to match the police chief’s salary.

“The marshal’s salary, I was told, wasn’t going to go lower,” Turnbough said. “It was going to be $52,000 a year and they lowered it (on Oct. 19) to $47,840 and lowered the officers’ pay to $18 instead.”

Instead, the salary may not be able to be changed until the end of the original four-year term is up in three years time.

“What I said all along is if you can’t change the marshal’s salary I don’t want to be chief,” Turnbough said.

The morning they resigned, Bray said she received a text from White saying Turnbough had not shown up for work 30 minutes after his scheduled shift. She told White she would look into it, but something probably came up.

“We had Halloween on the schedule and I worked noon to midnight,” Turnbough said. “When Halloween stuff was done, I finished out my shift patrolling and was supposed to be back in at 7 a.m. the next morning for school. I was being bounced around working night shift and day shift in the same week and putting in 90 hours. I lost 23 pounds. I never charged the city overtime.”

Turnbough said he over slept on Nov. 1 and when he talked to White, he said he was considering it a no call, no show. It was the last straw for both officials.

“It wasn’t just the hours,” Turnbough said. “Equipment doesn’t work, cars don’t start.”

Bray said the constant criticism and claims that citizens were complaining when no one reached out to her.

“I would like to know who they are, tell them to come to me,” Turnbough said.

The infidelity accusations were also undeserved.

“Everything was false when it came to that rumor,” Bray said. “We did everything we could to get the Belle PD back up and running and it wasn’t good enough for the council people.”

Turnbough said Bray didn’t deserve that rumor to be spread and she agreed that no one around them ever said anything, commented or offered to assist with the work to re-establish the police department.

“We are the third and fourth casualties of the (Struemph) sex scandal rumors,” Bray said. “None of it is true.”

When they came in on Nov. 1 to submit their resignations, they were surprised to find White putting together an emergency meeting for Thursday.

“So what was that original meeting about?” Bray asked.

They still don’t know.

Rumors that Bray and Turnbough were expected at the meeting to discuss their resignations or ask to rescind them were put to rest. 

“I never asked to rescind,” Bray said. “Once I make up mind I am set. I did talk to one alderman after I turned in my resignation letter and she chastised me for letting things get too personal.”

Turnbough agreed that he also never asked to rescind his resignation and neither were asked to attend the meeting to speak with the board.

“I still support the Belle Police Department,” Bray said. “I hated to resign, but they left me with no choice. My family is the most important thing to me except God and I wasn’t going to allow them to ruin me in their games they like to play.”

Turnbough said he is saddened with the outcome.

“It saddens my heart because it’s the people that lose in the end,” he said.

The board had at least five people interested in Bray’s vacated seat to be discussed during the Nov. 8 board meeting.

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