Piedmont council members ponder reappointment of police, fire chiefs
by Laura Johnson
Jan 27, 2013 | 5210 views | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two City Council members have questioned the qualifications of Piedmont’s police and fire chiefs, although the city’s attorney says the law presents no barriers to their serving in those roles.

Councilman Kenny Kelley has questioned whether police Chief Steven Tidwell’s other job as an attorney presents a conflict of interest. Meanwhile, Councilman Frank Cobb said that while he supports fire Chief Jimmy Trammell, he wonders if Trammell has enough formal training to head the Fire Department.

Piedmont City Attorney Ron Allen said the law addresses both those concerns.

On police Tidwell’s position, Allen said the city’s personnel code does allow city department heads to hold second jobs as long as they are approved by the city. The policy also states that the department head’s second job cannot present a conflict of interest with their city job.

Whether Tidwell’s jobs presents a conflict of interest is a question for elected city leaders and the city administrator, Allen said.

“That’s a personnel policy decision that the city administrator and possibly, ultimately, the council will have to make,” Allen said.

Tidwell declined to speak on record, directing all questions — even those about his age, employment history and whether he’s received approval to hold both positions — to City Clerk Michelle Franklin.

Regarding the fire chief position, Allen said the law requires paid fire chiefs to have more training than Trammell has. But, Allen said, Trammell is qualified as a volunteer fire chief.

“If the city paid him, he would have to have some sort of additional certification,” Allen said.

Trammell said he is not technically an employee of the city, though he is paid $600 each month for responding to fire calls.

Trammell, who retired after serving as as chief of the Piedmont Police Department, said he’s been working for the Fire Department since he was a teenager.

“You get it in your blood,” Trammell said. “It’s just a love of the department.”

He said he was cleared to serve as a volunteer chief by the Alabama Fire College four years ago.

“I wouldn’t have done anything that would have hurt the city, or the department,” Trammell said.

“If he’s qualified, I don’t have a problem putting him back in there,” Cobb said.

The two chiefs are not the only department heads the City Council can reappoint. City law states the council has the authority to appoint the city clerk, treasurer, attorney and judge as well as a public defender, a city administrator, a utilities manager and directors for the departments of personnel, public works and parks and recreation.

The City Council has already appointed the city clerk, attorney, judge and public defender. It’s not clear whether the council plans to vote on the chiefs or the other department heads, though city leaders have repeatedly said they have the authority to act.

“Will it happen, will it not happen?” Councilman Bill Baker said. “I thought maybe it would have come up already.”

Baker said he favors keeping the current department heads in place.

“I don’t see the need to make any changes,” Baker said.

The city clerk said in an email that the council has not added a vote on the department heads to the agenda for the council’s next meeting, Feb. 5.

Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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