Former Franklin officer seeks citizens’ support

Published 9:51 am Saturday, March 27, 2010

To the Editor:

Four months have gone by since my speech in the City Council chambers announcing my retirement from the Franklin Police Department.

On that night I told the story of discouragement that I had in the last five years as an employee of the city. I stated, “Due to your lack of concern for my health and career development, I, Ronald E. McClenny, tender my letter of resignation and commence with my retirement from the Franklin Police Department effective immediately.”

For those who were not listening, the word “retirement” was used. That date of Nov. 9 marked nine days past my official retirement date of Nov. 1, but a few have been closed-minded about why I left in such a manner.

A look into my final days may show you, my fellow citizens, why I took this course of action. It was a profound feeling of not fitting in with the new administration — not because I wasn’t a team player or that I couldn’t follow the rules but of not being given a chance to prove myself as part of that administration.

I was part of the community, living here for more than 25 years and taking a vested interest in its survival. I tested numerous times for the position of lieutenant and was passed over for people with less tenure in the position of sergeant. More important, I ranked in the No. 1 position on the written test each and every time it was given.

In August I met with Chief Phil Hardison to see if my luck may possibly be changing and if I might have one final chance of making the grade before retiring. My hope was surely put to rest by the comments made to me that afternoon. Chief Hardison suggested that I should retire, that I had done my time in service and if he were in my position he wouldn’t hesitate.

Needless to say, I left his office without a bit of encouragement. The very next night I met an old friend by chance whom I have known for more than 30 years who happens to be a mutual friend of the chief. The information that was passed on to me that night forever changed my feelings for Chief Hardison because of its derogatory and defaming content.

I immediately went to my supervisor and spoke with him about this conversation that had just taken place. He suggested that I should talk to Chief Hardison about it, but knowing just how the chief takes directness from his subordinates, I opted to write him a letter detailing exactly how the conversation began and ended.

After submitting the letter, I waited patiently for Chief Hardison to respond to my letter. Thirty days passed before I was given an audience with him — and only after sending him an e-mail requesting to see him about the scores of the written exam. That afternoon he called me into his office and brought up the letter that I had written him, and he asked me what my intentions were by writing this letter.

I told him that it was to inform him of this incident. Chief Hardison was advised that this was not the first time I had been given similar information as to how he felt about me personally. Never in the conversation did he deny ever making the statement. Just maybe, if he would have said, “Ronnie, I would never make such a statement to anyone like that,” then maybe we could have departed friends. His actions and responses only confirmed what I had felt during the last five years.

Upon an officer’s retirement, the officer is given his or her service weapon and retirement identification card for being a loyal law enforcement officer and community servant. It seems very unethical on the part of my superiors for them to treat me in the manner that I have been treated for disclosing a story that contained information questioning one’s integrity and honesty. I am being penalized for being truthful and honest.

In the history of the Franklin Police Department, not one member who has retired with the minimum amount of time in service has been denied these items. According to city policy, to leave in good standing, you have to give the department head at least 15 calendar days’ prior notice in writing. The city manager may waive this 15-day notice requirement. Failure to comply with this requirement shall be entered on the service record of the employee and may result in a denial of re-employment rights. The policy does not mention anything about giving up any other rights or benefits due to the hostile environment that I worked in. It would have been suicide to attempt to go back after challenging Chief Hardison’s integrity and authority.

After numerous requests through the city manager’s office, city attorney, City Council and Chief Hardison, all have denied my plea to give me those items, due to some unknown disciplinary action pending against me. The only problem with that story is that no one will tell me what I have done to violate some department policy.

This letter to the editor serves two purposes: one, to set the record straight on why I took this course of separation from the Franklin Police Department, and second, maybe get the total support of the community behind this injustice.

Having faithfully served and protected you for the past 25 years, I respectfully request that you contact your council representative and the city manager on my behalf.

I would like to thank all those who have stood behind me during this ordeal, and with perseverance this matter will be resolved.

Ronald E. McClenny