Councilman to press for details on police chief’s absence

Published 8:31 am Friday, December 3, 2010

FRANKLIN— City Councilman Don Blythe wants answers related to Police Chief Phil Hardison’s absence from work last week.

Blythe, who missed the Nov. 22 council meeting because he was hospitalized, said he plans to ask council colleagues for a closed-door session to discuss the matter during the council’s 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13, meeting at City Hall.

“I will do it within the law, privately,” Blythe said. “I will ask to be filled in by City Council. I wasn’t there, and they haven’t told me nothing.”

City officials last week declined to comment to The Tidewater News on Hardison’s absence from work. A woman who answered the telephone at his office on Thursday indicated Hardison was at work but not available. The Tidewater News left a message but did not get a return call.

Reached by telephone last week, Hardison would not say whether he had been the subject of disciplinary action.

City Manager June Fleming, who is Hardison’s supervisor, also wouldn’t comment last week because she said she doesn’t talk about personnel matters.

Blythe said he believes “things need to be laid out in the open for the benefit of the city and the citizens.”

“What I’m saying is I think the citizens have the right to know the truth,” he said. “I want to be informed about what transpired. I don’t want to be told it’s a personnel issue. I want the facts on it and want to be open with the public. That’s what I was elected to do.”

He added that he went to see Fleming at her office last week after hearing rumors that the chief had been suspended, but was told she would not return to work until this Wednesday, Dec. 1.

“I haven’t spoken to the city manager to get all the facts,” he said.

City Attorney Taylor Williams, City Councilman Benny Burgess and Mayor Jim Councill last week declined comment on Hardison’s status because it involved personnel. Councilwoman Mary Hilliard, Councilman Barry Cheatham and Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson could not be reached for comment.

Councilman Greg McLemore referred questions to Fleming.

The Tidewater News on Thursday called Burgess, Councill, Hilliard, McLemore and Johnson. None returned phone calls. Cheatham had no comment.