ARLINGTON — The city of Arlington terminated Police Chief John Gray’s employment contract Monday night. The action was tucked away in the consent agenda of the July 7 Arlington City Council meeting agenda.
The city’s action follows its receipt of a letter from Patrick A. Emmal, of Emmal, Skalbania & Vinnedge, Attorneys At Law. The June 17 letter refers to a general membership meeting of the Arlington Police Officers Association held “last night.”
“At that meeting, the members expressed a number of concerns,” wrote Emmal in the letter.
The letter identified “the most pressing issue” as the number of police officers seeking employment at other agencies, with eight currently in the process of applying for new jobs. The letter identifies two major reasons for discontent among the force. First, the rate of pay compared to other agencies and second, a growing dissatisfaction with the chief.
The letter continues, “The Association considered taking a public vote of no confidence during last night’s meeting. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and a vote did not occur.”
The author of the letter instead offered to schedule a meeting with the city administrator, Allen Johnson, to discuss the issue.
That “issue” next surfaced obscurely following the June 24 City Council meeting, when an executive session to discuss personnel issues apparently focussed on the letter. The June 30 workshop made no mention of Chief Gray.
So in two quick weeks with no public discussion, Gray is no longer chief of the Arlington Police Department, a position he has held since 2001. His current three-year contract with the city was to become due Oct. 15. His employment is being terminated without cause, according to the city’s assistant administrator, Kristin Banfield.
“The city and Chief Gray have decided to go in different directions,” Banfield said. “We are proceeding with the termination of Gray’s contract that was signed Oct. 15, 2005.”
According to Gray’s employment contract, the city may terminate employment without cause upon recommendation by the Mayor and a majority vote of the City Council in an open public meeting. Severance pay includes the equivalent of six months of salary as well as medical, dental and vision for the employee and his dependents, following the effective date of termination. All unused vacation will be paid as well as 33 percent of unused sick leave. Gray’s annual pay is a bit more than $112,356.
Gray understands it’s the city’s prerogative to terminate his contract.
“The mayor can let any department director go without cause or notice and we know that going into the arrangement,” Gray said. He added that he believes the complaints from officers were from some individuals that he had to discipline.
“I was simply unbending in my principles when dealing with misconduct by officers,” Gray said.
After approving the consent agenda at the July 7 City Council meeting, the Council authorized the mayor to hire the Prothman Company to assist the city in a search for a new police chief. City Councilman Graham Smith questioned Johnson as to the need for such quick action, suggesting a workshop to discuss a strategy. Johnson said the quick action is to send the message of support to the officers and the public.
Smith made a motion to discuss further the hiring of Prothman Co. in a workshop, but there was no second. A motion was then made to approve the hiring of Prothman Co. and all but Smith voted in favor. The fee for hiring Prothman Co. is 20 percent of the starting annual salary of the selected candidate.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Terry Quintrall will serve as acting chief until a new chief is hired.