A hollow ‘victory’

Published 10:31 am Saturday, November 20, 2010

Judge Theodore Burr Jr. dispensed some unsolicited wisdom to City of Franklin officials this week. We hope they take the judge’s words to heart.

In ruling that the city was legally permitted to deny former Police Sgt. Ronnie McClenny his service weapon and other mementos of his quarter-century of service to the community, Burr reminded city leaders of an important distinction in life: that what is legally justifiable is not always the right thing morally and ethically.

The out-of-town judge, who had access to all of the facts of the case and had no prior relationships with the parties involved, confirmed what has been long suspected by many observers: that a petty personality conflict and out-of-control egos perpetuated a year-long drama that has distracted the Police Department from its core mission of public safety and wasted the time and energy of top staff members at City Hall.

When a disgruntled McClenny resigned from the police force a year ago, he took the low road and publicly chastised his former boss, Police Chief Phil Hardison, at a City Council meeting. McClenny showed poor judgment in doing so. Hardison, instead of being the bigger man and acting with the professionalism that his position demands, responded with equal immaturity, denying McClenny his gun and other items that routinely are presented to veteran police officers who leave the force.

To add insult to injury, Hardison personally purchased McClenny’s service revolver — a fact that Burr forced the city, which had kept the gun’s whereabouts a secret for months, to reveal in court this week.

City government — an institution of honorable women and men, including Hardison — might have won a legal “victory” in its silly dispute with McClenny, but in the process, City Hall’s standing in the court of public opinion was severely diminished.