LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - After months with no police force, the town of Pine Ridge held a council meeting tonight and moved to hire an independent agency to conduct the search for a new police chief.
However, some residents are saying more still needs to be done. In October the entire police force resigned. It marked the fourth police chief and 10th officer to resign in the last three years since Mayor Robert Wells took office.
Judi Cooper, a resident of the town of Pine Ridge, said after tonight’s meeting that it’s a relief to hear the town might have a police force again in the coming months, but said she wants to see reforms to the Mayor serving as police commissioner.
“We’re not fixing the part of it’s that’s broken and that’s the problem,” Cooper said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Cooper read an email former Police Chief Vincent Silano wrote Mayor Robert Wells just weeks before his resignation, describing a hostile work environment.
In response to public opinion raised by various citizens over the last few months, the Council moved to hire an independent agency to conduct the search for a new police chief.
“You’ve heard several of the citizen’s voice some concerns about the manner in which the police chief has been hired and the fact that we’ve had several who have resigned,” Councilman Daniel Davis said. “It seemed prudent for us to take another approach.”
Davis said he hopes the town has a new police chief within 30 to 45 days.
“It would be great to hire a police chief in this manner, but the only problem is they are still going to end up in the hands of the Mayor,” Cooper said. " We still have this issue to deal with, so as far as I’m concerned we are now paying someone to be micromanaged out of a job.”
Silano said in his letter of resignation on October 13th that Mayor Wells micro-managed the police department and interjected himself in police matters.
Cooper and other residents said they want the council to remove Mayor Wells from the two public safety committee, but Councilman Davis said that isn’t possible.
“The town code gives the current mayor the authority to appoint people on committees,” Davis said.
Davis said the council would need to change that code in order to remove Mayor Wells from that position. He added that the council is also going to look into hiring more full-time officers once the town has a police chief again.
Two of the five council members weren’t at Tuesday’s meeting, including Mayor Robert Wells.