“I feel like he’s done a good job,” said Mayor Rudy Rooks. “I feel like he is the obvious choice.”
Benefield has been serving as interim police chief since Nov. 6 when the council voted not to reappoint Robert Pittman to the position, the vote occurring at the council's first meeting immediately after being sworn into office. At that meeting, council members Rhonda Green, Elvin Henson, Travis Crowe and Rooks all voted not to reappoint Pittman. Councilman Shannon Roberts abstained and Councilman Jerry Gaines did not oppose the reappointment.
At its meeting Tuesday evening, the council voted unanimously to appoint Benefield to the position permanently with Gaines abstaining from the vote.
Immediately after the vote, Rooks recognized Heath Jones, a former Heflin police officer, who had requested to speak at the meeting earlier in the day.
Jones was fired from the department by the council on March 19 for allegedly violating police policy regarding friends or acquaintances police employees can have outside of working hours. Benefield brought the alleged violations to the council’s attention. Based on the termination Jones filed a retaliatory discrimination complaint against the city with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on April 29.
“I actually wanted to speak before you had your vote,” Jones said.
Jones asked if the position of chief of police had been advertised and asked if he could apply for the position.
“It’s an appointment,” Rooks said. “It’s not an application type thing. The state law says that.”
After the meeting, Gaines said he abstained from the vote because he knew that Jones wanted a chance to apply for the position.
In other business the council members:
— Unanimously approved an alcohol permit for Smith Farms, which is building a store near the intersection of Interstate 20 and Alabama 46.
— Unanimously approved waiving the charge for a building permit for Buster Miles Auto Group for an expanded Chevrolet dealership on Almon Street next to Buster Miles Ford. The charge would be between $4,300 and $4,400, said Shane Smith, city clerk.
— Scheduled a special meeting to discuss proposed personnel policy changes on Thursday, Aug. 22, at 5:30 p.m.
— Created a committee to make recommendations about carrying firearms on city property. The city needs to create its own laws, said Tammy Perry, director of Parks and Recreation, stating her preference that the city ban all firearms, concealed or not, in the city’s parks and recreation facilities if possible. Councilman Gaines, Police Chief A. J. Benefield, city attorney Patrick Casey and Perry will serve on the committee.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.