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Fox: Punishing Henderson not warranted
Sep 01, 2006 12:00 am
Despite a City Council resolution censuring the city's personnel director, Mayor Don Fox said in a letter Tuesday "disciplinary action … is not warranted" against Jim Henderson.
In his letter he also announced a new set of what he called "checks and balances," including placing responsibility for compiling lists of personnel on Finance Commissioner Hal Bittinger. He also said no harm was ultimately done by the release of police officers' names and addresses without notifying the officers, and Henderson had been sufficiently informed of what Fox called "a simple mistake."
"I have absolutely no doubt that, while entirely preventable, the inadvertent release of the police officer information was a simple mistake which was fortunately corrected by prompt action by all involved," Fox said, apparently referring to a meeting on the subject including Henderson, Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks and City Attorney Andy Wright.
However, in an opinion issued last month Wright spelled out the legal process which made Henderson culpable for the release of the list. A campaign worker for former county mayoral candidate Linda Elam requested a list of all City of Lebanon employees in June, later amending it to exclude police officers.
However, it was discovered – and Henderson eventually acknowledged – police officers' names had been included without notifying the officers per state law.
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Huddleston, who sponsored the ordinance censuring Henderson, said it "remains to be seen" as to whether the Council's message got through to the personnel director.
"The ordinance had other issues on it, plus other council members had other issues that involved Mr. Henderson," Huddleston said. "… I say it's the mayor's decision. He's (Henderson's) boss … but I'm going to hold people accountable just as I'm held accountable by my constituents."
Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath said the public chiding of Henderson at a Council meeting last month may have gotten the message through.
"I think he's gotten the message his office needs to handle things differently," Warmath said.
While undercover officer information is confidential, other police officer information is public record, but state law requires they be notified within three days of the information's release.
Wright said the release of the records – which were requested June 15 and returned about a month later by Elam campaign manager Matthew Chapman – was legal, but police officers should have been notified by June 19, 2006.
And since Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks said he did not receive notice until nearly a month later, he said he was unable to notify officers.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at email@example.com.