Tempers flare over mayor’s handling of police department
by W. Brian Hale
Jul 19, 2010 | 6492 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OAKMAN — Police Chief Boo Woodard announced Monday at a meeting of Oakman’s City Council that he had been suspended by Mayor Joyce Todd.

Woodard said his suspension occurred during his medical leave from the department, and stated that he has been locked out of his office after Todd ordered the locks in the police department to be re-keyed.

“I cannot get into my office, which contains many of my own personal items, as well as items that are relevant to the running of our police department.” Woodard said.

According to Woodard, his suspension is a result of his internal affairs investigation of officer Nancy Kirkland on alleged charges of misconduct and insubordination.

Woodard said he attempted to contact Kirkland to arrange an interview regarding her alleged involvement in the circulation of a document with sensitive information about Oakman Councilor Patricia Blackwell.

The questions included inquiries about Kirkland’s work at a Birmingham law firm, asking if she had knowledge about a request from a Jasper attorney about the case action summary against Blackwell, if she was aware that Todd had Oakman magistrate Lisa Lockhart to pick up the document from the Jasper attorney, if she was aware that the document on the case action summary was duplicated and circulated around Oakman, and that the document was handed out at Oakman gas stations and to other Oakman citizens.

“A police officer used her position at another local law office to obtain documents that were spread around town after they were handed to the mayor,” Woodard said.

Woodard said Kirkland did not return his calls and did not show up for an interview pertaining to the investigation at Jasper Police Department.

Producing a copy of the case action summary, Woodard pointed out the presence of Blackwell’s personal information on the document, including her address, phone number, social security number and driver’s license number, which is supposed to be covered before being released to the public.

Woodard said because he is locked out of his police department, other confidential records could be at risk.

“Because of what has occurred, I can no longer guarantee that any citizen’s personal records are secure,” Woodard said. “Everyone is subject to the same actions that are happening to Ms. Blackwell.”

Woodard said that because of the leak of this confidential information, a $24,000 car has been purchased on Blackwell’s credit.

“That could be anyone whose name is exposed.” Woodard said.

Woodard also alleged that he had uncovered other incidents of misconduct by the mayor, such as the firing of officer Ronnie Phillips for charges Todd has yet to cite. Woodard said that Phillips’ dismissal was later changed to suspension without pay.

Woodard stated he intended to file charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Todd for a hostile work environment and discrimination of marital status.

Also during Monday’s meeting, Woodard apologized to the citizens on hand for anyone who attempted to contact the police department or needed their assistance.

“I’m sorry there was no one there to receive calls,” Woodard said. “I have contact Walker County Sheriff John Mark Tirey and have asked him to please have his officers around the Oakman area to step up their patrols for the safety and security of our community.”

On several occasions during Monday’s meeting, citizens in attendance voiced their anger at Todd, Woodard and many of the allegations they were hearing, while others showed their support. Earlier in the day some concerned citizens protested about the police situation in front of city hall.

One citizen who asked to speak, motioned around the room at the gathering at the meeting and remarked, “I have never seen this many people at a city council meeting as long as I have been coming to them. This tells me something is really going wrong in our town and people want something done about it.”