Piedmont City Council considers disbanding police department in possibly illegal secret meeting

The Piedmont City Council discussed getting rid of its police department and heard a presentation from Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards this week during a closed-door session that may have been illegal.
BY BRYAN DEAN bdean@opubco.com Modified: August 31, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: August 31, 2013
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The Piedmont Police Department has nine full-time officers, including the police chief, and one part-time reserve officer.

Oblein said two open positions have been open for the past several months. One officer left the department a few months ago, and another was fired in November.

Officer Ken Qualls was fired after he made national news by giving a public urination ticket to a mother whose 3-year-old son dropped his pants and urinated in the family's front yard. He has challenged his firing in court.

Oblein said otherwise the department has had no controversy, and he doesn't know why the council is considering disbanding the department.

Piedmont police recently voted to unionize for the first time, joining the Fraternal Order of Police.

Mayor Valerie Thomerson declined to comment, referring questions to the city attorney, who did not return calls Friday.

The police issue was one of several potential open meeting act violations during the Monday meeting. Three other items were on the executive session agenda.

One of the items listed was “discussion and consideration on potential litigations.” The law allows public bodies to discuss pending litigation in executive session, but agendas must be specific about the case being discussed.

Two other items on the agenda concerned a proposed wind farm project near Piedmont that has angered some residents.

The Piedmont Citizen ran an editorial Monday including a letter sent to the council challenging the legal basis for discussing the wind farm issue in executive session.

The council changed course during the meeting, discussing that issue in the open. But the agenda was never changed to reflect that such a public discussion would happen, which concerned Robinson because public bodies are not legally allowed to discuss items that aren't on the agenda.

“You can't just call it an executive session and then come back in the meeting and do something else,” Robinson said. “At the very least, you move it to the next meeting.”

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