Council: No police probe

Published 9:21 am Wednesday, November 18, 2009

FRANKLIN—Police Chief Phil Hardison will not face any action or investigation from the City Council in response to allegations of harassment made by a former police sergeant last week.

Ronald McClenny, who abruptly ended his 25-year career with the city’s police department during last week’s council meeting, accused Hardison of “creating a hostile work environment.” A special closed meeting of the City Council was quickly scheduled for Monday night “to discuss and consider the performance of employees in the police department and to evaluate the performance of the police department.”

After the council met in closed session for more than an hour Monday night, Mayor Jim Councill read aloud a statement. “The council has been briefed by the city manager; the city manager has expressed confidence in the chief and the operation of the police department. We will abide by the decision of the city manager and will take no action or investigation of the chief or the police department,” he said. City Manager June Fleming and council members declined to comment further.

Hardison maintains that McClenny wasn’t treated unfairly.

“Mr. McClenny voluntarily resigned from his position with the police department for reasons unknown to me and without any discussion with me prior to his departure,” Hardison said Tuesday. “I am very proud of the men and women of the Franklin Police Department, and we are committed to providing the highest quality of law enforcement service to this community, given our resources.”

Neither Hardison nor McClenny attended the meeting.

“I don’t know what went on at City Hall,” McClenny said Tuesday. “I guess they believed everything he said over what the citizens said.”

McClenny said he is still awaiting word on whether he will be allowed to purchase his service weapon, receive a concealed carry permit and an identification card, all of which he says he is entitled to as a retired police officer.

McClenny said that if he doesn’t hear from city officials before Monday, “You’ll see me again in front of City Council Monday night.”

A letter from the Franklin & Vicinity Minister’s Conference, which represents more than 30 local houses of faith, was hand delivered to Fleming before the closed-door session. In the letter, the group threw its support behind Hardison.

“He has been honest with the community, even when that honesty was hard to hear,” the letter states. “He has never wavered in his desire to help us have safe neighborhoods and streets.”

A handful of citizens — all supporting Hardison —showed up at City Hall to await the outcome of the meeting.

Ellis Crum, a former Franklin mayoral candidate who was in attendance, said Hardison “represents a new breed of leadership.”

“He is truly one of the good guys in the city,” he said. “I trust my family with him.”

Crum said that Hardison’s leadership has brought positive change to the city.

“When any organization faces change, whether it’s cities, churches or families, there will always be people resistant to move forward,” he said.

Mona Murphy, vice-chairman of the Franklin School Board, also attended the meeting. She said that the police department is “doing an excellent job for the total community,” under Hardison’s leadership.

Citizens also said that Hardison has a better working relationship with the community than past police chiefs.

“I just see a better cooperation between the police department and the community,” said Franklin resident Dr. Peggy Scott.

“We have more pertinent issues to address in Franklin, especially with the closing of (the Franklin mill),” she said. “We need to work together and support the police chief and let him do his job.”