According to a few council members and acting police chief Jason Richardson, a number of factors were involved that snowballed into the demotion of Colburn.
However, Colburn’s attorney, Ken Guin, said the council “didn’t have much of a reason” for demoting Colburn and that “what they did was completely against the law.”
District 4 council member Mark Chambers and mayor pro tem James “Jimbo” Bray Jr. said they heard several complaints against Colburn not only from the city’s residents but also from police officers.
Specific issues mentioned include Colburn refusing to take computer classes that the city offered to pay for in order to enhance his technology skills in the police department, searching and applying for grants that would help in supplying much-needed equipment for the police department, mishandling a pair of recent break-ins at Kenneth Guin and Vickers drug stores and allegedly offering an amount of his personal salary to a former officer to handle Colburn’s duties as police chief.
Richardson said he was approached sometime last week by Bray and Chambers who asked if he would ever be interested in taking the position of police chief.
Richardson replied telling them he was interested, that he would do what’s best for his family and the residents of Carbon Hill, but he didn’t think the process would take place so quickly.
“He was removed as police chief, but he’s still employed here,” Richardson said. “... I feel like there are a lot of things that can be done. There are things that can be done that weren’t being done. I want to majorly crack down on drugs.
“I’ll say this, it is time for a change in Carbon Hill, and I’m hoping I’m that change,” he continued. “The drugs have got to stop. I’m here for the citizens, day and night. If they need me, I’m here.”
On Monday night, Bray said, “We didn’t fire him [Colburn]. He was wrote up; he’d been written up several times. We’d had complaints, several complaints, but we haven’t voted on anything yet.”
Colburn, who is now on medical leave until May, has filed lawsuits against the city of Carbon Hill, Bray, Chambers and District 5 council member Suzanne Atkins.
Bray continued to say that Colburn has hired Guin as his attorney, which Bray says is a “conflict of interest.”
“Mr. Colburn has sought counsel from Ken Guin to represent him to sue the city for demoting him. But, on the other hand, Ken Guin is representing Mr. Richardson, Pee Wee Richardson, and that’s a conflict of interest,” Bray stated. “Ron [Colburn] testified against Pee Wee, wrote three statements against Pee Wee, and Ken should’ve known he couldn’t represent Ron while Pee Wee’s case was ongoing. So, there’s a big conflict of interest there.”
Guin said Colburn was called in by Bray, Chambers and Atkins last Wednesday following Tuesday night’s council meeting and was told there was a complaint against him regarding something that happened the night of the break-ins, but they didn’t give him that as a reason for demoting him.
“They have got to give him a written notice of the reason. They’ve got to have a public hearing. They’ve got to pass it by a two-thirds vote of all members of the council, and that includes the mayor,” Guin said. “... On Wednesday morning after the meeting, Ron had posted in the dispatch office that he was going to have all police officers, including himself, submit to a drug test by 5 o’clock the following day. ... Two hours after he posted that, they called him in and fired him as police chief.”
Jason Richardson and Bray both said it was not a drug screening that was being conducted but a health screening for city employee insurance purposes.
“It wasn’t for a drug test, I can tell you that. The thing that was posted was for everybody to be there for health screenings to make their health insurance to go down,” Bray said. “[It was a] health screening, not drug screening.”
Guin said this isn’t the first time the city council has been involved in wrongdoings.
Guin listed a number of issues council members have either took part in or have overlooked, not to mention how they have mishandled Colburn’s situation.
“He was given no due process that’s required by law, and there’s multiple Code [of Alabama] sections required. ... They made Ron take off his badge, his police chief badge, and hand it to them. They immediately turned around and handed it to Jason Richardson and handed Ron a lieutenant’s badge. There’s never been an official meeting to hire Jason Richardson, but yet that’s what they did,” Guin said. “So, this thing reeks of violating the open meetings act in multiple matters. ... If they discussed and decided how they were going to do on that pay raise or what they were going to do with Ron under the open meetings act, it’s void because it took place in secret. It’s just wrong. They’re letting folks go and then just putting their friends in these positions and doing lots of things without meetings.”
A special meeting has been called for 5 p.m. Wednesday evening in the Carbon Hill City Council’s meeting chamber.