Special Photo: “I am not scared, I have done nothing wrong,” said Locust Grove Police Chief Jesse Patton, who was fired Monday. Patton said he was called into City Manager Don McKenzie’s office Monday morning at 7: 25 a.m., and was told he was terminated. He said he has filed an appeal.
Locust Grove Police Chief Jesse Patton, and City Clerk Theresa Breedlove, have been fired.
Mayor Lorene Lindsey confirmed the terminations following a council meeting Monday night.
Other city officials were mum about the dismissals, after holding a 30-minute executive session, that saw Don McKenzie, the city manager, leave the room where the session was being held.
The firings were not mentioned at Monday’s, open city council workshop session. However, the council did go into an executive session to discuss what was announced as a “personnel matter.”
Patton, along with Police Sgt. Alvin Bearden, were at the workshop. Patton said he was called into McKenzie’s office Monday morning at 7: 25 a m., and was told he was terminated. He said he has filed an appeal.
“I am not scared, I have done nothing wrong,” said Patton. “[McKenzie] said he was told, and he saw me with binoculars in the mayor’s office, after telling me a week prior not to be in her office. [McKenzie] said he had a witness who told him that I was showing pictures around town of his personal truck being on a city lift being worked on.
“None of that is true,” said Patton. “He seems to think that people are plotting against him.”
Breedlove was not at the council meeting, and the reason for her termination could not be discovered by press time Monday.
“I was devastated this morning when I heard the city manager fired the police chief, and the city clerk,” said Mayor Lindsey. “I hope that we can resolve the situation in a way that would be satisfactory for all of those involved.”
Lindsey said Assistant Police Chief Ken Swanson will serve as acting police chief. “We have to go through an appeal process,” said the mayor. “It has to be no less than five days, and no more than 20 days.”
The Locust Grove City Council has set a special called meeting for Oct. 25.
Patton has been with the Locust Grove Police Department for 23 years. He has been chief for 12 years. Breedlove has served as city clerk for 12 years.
Residents who waited out the executive session expressed support for Patton. “I think it should be up to the city council and the mayor to make the decision about firing the chief, not the city manager,” said James Dixon, who has lived in the city since 1984. “When you fire somebody, you need some evidence ... I don’t know of any reason to fire Patton.”
Resident Emma Jean Stewart also expressed support for Patton. “If you ask the chief about doing something around here, it gets done,” said Stewart. “I just had a situation three weeks ago, and he took care of it,” she said.
“Chief Patton is one of the best fellows I have ever known,” said Vernon Ashe, a 17-year resident, who also is campaigning for a city council seat. “He is as honest as the day is long ... and he is right there when you need him.”