Sipsey police services suspended; Ellis resigns

By RICK WATSON
Posted 1/11/19

SIPSEY – The Sipsey Town Council  on Tuesday suspended police services, according to Mayor Pro Tem Brenda Robinson, while in a related development, Sipsey Municipal Judge Greg Ellis also …

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Sipsey police services suspended; Ellis resigns

Posted

SIPSEY – The Sipsey Town Council  on Tuesday suspended police services, according to Mayor Pro Tem Brenda Robinson, while in a related development, Sipsey Municipal Judge Greg Ellis also recently resigned.

Robinson said that Police Chief Jady Pipes told two council members that he was resigning this past week. He also met with Mayor Jerry Saddler to turn in his resignation. 

Pipes said Thursday he was asked to get the police department up and running, in compliance with the state, which he did. However, he said he is also a seminary student for six years, working now on a dissertation for a doctor of ministry degree. On Jan. 1, he gave a three-week notice to allow for a smooth transition to a future chief so he could work on the degree. 

Due to problems in the police department, the council took the action suspending police services in a called meeting, Robinson said. 

“The mayor and council agreed to suspend the police services in the Town of Sipsey as of Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019,” Robinson said.

The reason was that the town was facing financial problems, she said.

“Hopefully it will get better in a few months,” she said. “But right now, we cannot afford a full-time police force,” she said.

Robinson said town officials think this is only temporary, but she does not have a time frame when police services might be reinstated again.

Robinson reached out to outgoing Walker County Sheriff Jim Underwood for assistance, and he said he would help out the town while he was still in office. The council has not had conversations with Nick Smith, who will be sworn in as the county's sheriff on Monday. 

Asked if the council had talked about unincorporating the town, Robertson said they had not and that the council was not interested in that action. 

Robinson said officials would hold another called city council meeting to discuss Ellis' resignation. Ellis, who has been the judge for over four years, confirmed on Thursday that he drafted a letter stating that he did not want to be considered for reappointment.

He planned to present the letter in court in January, but no one showed up, according to Ellis. He hand-delivered the letter to the town’s attorney. 

“They (the Town of Sipsey) had a good opportunity about six months ago when they revamped the police department and hired a new magistrate/city clerk,” Ellis said.

“The town could have made a difference in the criminal element in Sipsey and made it a better, safer place for the residents of Sipsey,” he said. “But that did not happen."

According to Ellis, some of the town’s leadership was not happy with the former magistrate and replaced her with someone who did not fully grasp how a court was supposed to work. She wanted to take actions on her own that were contrary to what Ellis as the municipal judge wanted, he said.

“The support was not there for the citizens of Sipsey, for the law enforcement agents, or for the municipal court in Sipsey and in good conscience, I could not continue in that capacity,” Ellis said.

Ellis also disagreed with Robinson’s comment about the town not being able to afford police service. 

He said that six months ago, the city hired two new law enforcement officers and the part-time magistrate/clerk.

“I devoted a great deal of uncompensated time assisting the new law enforcement officers, as well as the new clerk, in preparation for a more effective municipal court,” Ellis said.

These efforts were stymied by some members of the city council, according to Ellis.

“Had they left it alone, the court and the police department would have been financially viable,” he said.

Robertson could not be reached late Thursday afternoon for a response to Ellis' statements. 

Ellis feels the citizens of Sipsey deserve better than what they got.

“The Town of Sipsey is no different from the City of Jasper or the City of Birmingham,” he said. The municipal judge operates the municipal court, and that should be without interference from the city council, according to Ellis.

Ellis also said in the letter that if the town could not find a suitable replacement, he would assist the citizens of Sipsey if asked, but being the municipal judge for the town is not in his future.

Pipes said he had no opinion of the council's action to suspend services, as he was asked to get the department up and running, and the council could do what it wished at that point. "I don't get into that part of it," he said, saying he completed his mission. 

(News Editor Ed Howell contributed to this story.)