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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

La Cygne residents charge that police chief forced to resign

LA CYGNE – A group of more than 50 La Cygne residents descended on the La Cygne City Council meeting on Wednesday, March 6, to protest what they said was the city unfairly forcing Tina Fenoughty to resign as police chief.

At a special meeting of the council on Thursday, Feb. 29, Mayor Debra Wilson read a letter written by Fenoughty saying she was resigning her post effective Wednesday, Feb. 28. Following closed-door sessions, the council appointed Craig Haley to take over the chief post on an interim basis.

Haley has served as a part-time La Cygne police officer and is currently the part-time Parker police chief and full-time deputy for the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.

Wilson told those gathered that while the usual procedure for public forum, and that was to allow people to speak for up to five minutes, she would only allow a total of 20 minutes to be divided up among the crowd. She also limited the speaking time to residents only.

Ten residents took the opportunity to speak on Fenoughty’s behalf, praising her ability to work with and care for the people of the community. Several testified that she showed respect for the members of the community and always made herself available to help residents.

One of the speakers, Taylor Callahan, read what she said was a statement by Fenoughty. She said Fenoughty had been called into a meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 28, with Wilson, City Clerk Jodi Wade, Officer Haley, and City Attorney Burton Harding and was asked to submit her resignation or be terminated.

In the statement Callahan read, the former chief said she didn’t want to resign and she was heartbroken that she was being forced to quit a job she loved.

The statement said the reason for the dismissal was an incident with a dog and because she did not write the rules and procedures for department operations fast enough.

However, the statement also indicated that when she returned to her post in November following a medical leave for major surgery in the summer, she was placed on light duty per doctor’s orders. Apparently, Fenoughty responded to an incident involving child abuse that caused her go beyond her prescribed hours on limited duty and she was written up by the mayor.

However, according to Callahan, the chief said she would do it again if a child was in danger.

She also said Fenoughty wanted to be returned to duty.

While Wade confirmed who was in the meeting with Fenoughty on Feb. 28, she said she could not comment on other items listed in the statement read by Callahan because it was a personnel matter.

The Journal staff has attempted to contact Callahan or Fenoughty to verify that the former chief wrote the statement but have not been able to do so.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Sandra Pointer, another resident, asked why the council let Fenoughty go.

But the mayor said the council couldn’t respond to that question.

Following the comment period, most of the residents walked out of the council’s chamber.

The council went into a closed-door session for a total of 20 minutes at the end of the meeting to discuss personnel issues, but emerged without taking further action.

However, prior to the executive session, Wade presented three resolutions on police department matters to be considered by the council. She said the resolutions had been prepared by Haley.

Because the resolutions had not been presented to the council prior to the meeting, they were read allow, and some minor, mostly grammatical, changes were made, according to Wade. The council unanimously approved all three.

The resolutions were:

  • No. 464 – Updating the policy on use and maintenance of body armor.

  • No. 465 – Updating the use of city vehicles when employees were off-duty or on personal business. It also limits to 15 miles the distance that an employee can drive a city vehicle home from work.

  • No. 466 - Updates the procedure on use of body cameras and when they cannot be used.

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