ITALY - The Italy City Council has upheld the termination of former police officer Kevin Coffey’s employment.
The appeal was heard during open session per the request of Coffey’s attorney, Lance Wyatt, during the council’s regular monthly meeting, June 11.
Wyatt presented the council with the letter of termination from Italy Police Chief John Parker. The letter indicated the officer’s employment was terminated due to his giving untrue answers that resulted in conduct unbecoming an officer.
Wyatt said Coffey took two sick days, April 20 and 21. The attorney said that, according to the city policy manual, a return to work release is not required unless more than two days were accumulated on sick leave.
The attorney said Coffey, although not required, presented the chief with a release to return to work April 23. The release indicated “with restriction.” Coffey said it was his understanding from the doctor that the “restrictions” were for April 21 and 22 only.
Wyatt asked Mayor Frank Jackson if he could question the chief of police.
“This is an appeal, not a trial,” Jackson said, denying the request.
Wyatt asked Jackson if he could present the council with other documentation. Jackson said no until the council met with the city attorney. The council then adjourned into executive session.
Following the executive session, Wyatt was allowed to present other documentation - a second release from the hospital after a request was made by Parker on May 1.
Wyatt said his client had taken and passed a polygraph examination from a firm used by the city of Italy. The examiner determined, according to Wyatt, that no deception was indicated in Coffey’s answers.
Coffey’s employment was terminated May 4 after coming to work and after giving the department a second “return to work release,” according to information presented during the meeting.
Jackson said the second release indicated there were work restrictions, with Wyatt saying the restrictions pertained to the two days the officer was off.
Wyatt also presented the council members with Coffey’s work performance. He said Coffey received exceptionally high ratings and received multiple commendations.
Following a second executive session, the council returned to open session for its decision.
Councilman Mark Souder Sr. said the city of Italy is an at-will employer and can terminate employment at any time and with or without any reason. He made the motion to uphold the termination. Councilman Dennis Perkins Jr. seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
In other business, a public hearing was held relating to an updated juvenile curfew ordinance.
Diego Garcia questioned the council about the proposed ordinance. His concern was how it would help those living in or near the downtown area.
Councilman Rodney Guthrie said the ordinance prohibited anyone 16 years of age or younger from wandering around city streets in the middle of the night. He said juveniles would not be allowed to be walking up and down the streets without a parent or guardian between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Sunday through Thursday and from 12:01 until 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Souder said there were exceptions for juveniles going to and from church, school events and work.
Garcia and others said many of these youth in the downtown area who create excessive noise and other problems are older than 16 years of age. Parker said he told his officers the youth can congregate as long as matters are peaceful. If problems occur, the officers need to take measures, he said.
The board rescinded the prior juvenile curfew ordinance and unanimously approved Juvenile Curfew Ordinance 070611-01.
The council elected Guthrie as mayor pro-tem, with the mayor also appointing him over the water and sewer department. Jackson also appointed council members Perkins over administration; John Droll, code enforcement, court and sanitation; Greg Richards, street department; and Souder, police and fire.
The council approved Souder, water superintendent, to go out for bids on the 1999 garbage truck, the 1981 tractor and the 1989 dump truck. Souder said the garbage truck was valued at $8,500, the dump truck at $348 and the tractor at $0 per the last depreciation schedule from the city’s auditor. He said he would like to replace the tractor and dump truck with newer equipment.
A lengthy session ensued when Cynthia Olguin, city secretary/administrator, said the council, in 2005, requested she investigate the Texas Comptroller’s Local Government Management Review.
Olguin said there would be no cost to the city and the review had been scheduled for December. Olguin said there were 11 protocols the comptroller’s office would review or the city could request what areas needed to be reviewed.
Souder said it would be good to get a written report of the city’s efficiencies as well as the city’s deficiencies. They recommended Olguin get as much done in advance of the review as possible but to go forward with the review.
The council also approved the reinstatement of the Italy Park Board, with Jackson asking each council member to come back next month with a possible representative for the board.
Ken Scales of Italy and Malinda Paine-Sharpley of Corsicana gave a brief overview of the Texas Main Street Program.
Sharpley, director of the Corsicana Main Street project, said Italy is centered around the downtown area. She indicated a three-year commitment is required by the city to revitalize the downtown area and that training is available from the Texas Historical Commissioner, with architectural assistance also available. She told the council that grants are available for the smaller communities such as Italy.
Scales, a local homeowner and business owner, said he feels Italy is a “true Norman Rockwell painting.” After meeting the people here, he said his family feels as if they “belong here in small town America.”
He said the naysayers in the community said people would not get behind the project but that he has talked with people and feels like residents would support a revitalization of the downtown area, a park, the resurgence of an Italian festival and more.
The Texas Main Street Program, part of the Texas Historical Commission is Community Heritage Development Division, helps Texas cities revitalize their historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts by utilizing preservation and economic development strategies. The program, begun in 1981, is affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The organization has assisted more than 130 Texas cities.
In council comments, Droll said he would like to see the council address the community center, a burn ordinance and sexually oriented businesses.