Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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May 10, 2014

Flatwoods council fires suspended chief

FLATWOODS — The Flatwoods City Council this morning voted to fire suspended Police Chief Kraig Hankins after finding him guilty of the charges that had been lodged against him.

Those charges included insubordination, inefficiency, conduct unbecoming a police officer and violation of the city’s personnel policy.

The vote to dismiss Hankins was unanimous and came at the end of a two-hour hearing that took place in executive session. Neither Hankins nor his lead attorney, Kenneth Reed of Ludlow, were present. However, Hankins was represented by his co-counsel, James Moore of Cincinnati, who declined to comment after the hearing.

Hankins now has 30 days to appeal the council’s decision to Greenup Circuit Court and City Attorney Stephen McGinnis said it was his understanding Hankins intended to do just that.

The next step for the city will be “to choose who the next chief is going to be,” McGinnis said. Lt. R.B. Reed, the department’s second in command, is serving as acting chief and has been since Mayor Bobby Crager placed Hankins on suspension last month.

The specific charges against Hankins and the council’s verdict on each of them were were as follows:

‰ Insubordination for using derogatory terms to refer to the mayor. The council found Hankins guilty by a 6-0 vote, with a penalty of a three-day unpaid suspension.

‰ Inefficiency, for failing to properly manage the police department. Hankins was found guilty by a 5-1 vote, with a penalty of termination.

‰ Violation of Flatwoods’ personnel policy by taking adverse action against several police officers who had filed grievances against him. Those included placing written reprimands in those officers’ personnel files. The council split on that charge, with three members voting for guilty and three for not guilty. Crager cast the deciding guilty vote, with a penalty of termination.

‰ Improper conduct and conduct unbecoming a police officer for his interactions with City Clerk Heather McKenzie. The council found Hankins guilty by a 6-0 vote, with a penalty of termination.

‰ Insubordination for refusing Crager’s order to remove the reprimands from the personnel files of the officers who’d filed grievances against him. The council’s vote was 4-2 in favor of guilty, with a penalty of termination.

After McGinnis read the verdicts, Councilman Joe Gray moved the council accept the verdicts, Councilman Ron Fields seconded and the vote to do so was unanimous.

Hankins already has a lawsuit pending against the city in Greenup Circuit Court. Details of that case aren’t known because Judge Bob Conley ordered the file sealed. However, the action did include a request for a temporary injunction to halt Saturday’s hearing. However, at a hearing on Friday, Conley disqualified himself from hearing the case without ruling on that reqest or on a motion to permanently seal the case record.

Conley said he was recusing himself from the matter because he ran the risk of conflict of interest no matter which way he ruled. A special judge will now be appointed to the case.

Hankins assumed command of the police department on Aug. 1, 2012, the date his predecessor Tom Haynes’ retirement became effective. The city council voted to hire the retired Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives senior agent, who was the choice of both Crager and the committee appointed to search for Haynes’ successor.

Hankins was one of three chief candidates not already employed by the department.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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