Police chief, officer fired after hearing
by James Phillips & David Lazenby
Aug 05, 2010 | 5871 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Following a due process hearing by the Carbon Hill City Council on Wednesday, city officials decided to fire the city’s police chief and a police officer, who until recently was the city’s assistant police chief.

City officials voted to terminate the employment of police chief Robert King and officer Tom Sorrell at the conclusion of the called meeting.

The Council was unanimous on dismissing Sorrell. On the vote regarding King, there was one dissenting vote cast by Jack Hinds.

Both officers have been on paid suspension since July 9.

“In my opinion, the Council made a wise decision,” said city attorney Ken Guin, who presented evidence against the officers during the hearing. “We presented sufficient evidence for them to rely on in terminating their employment.”

Hube Dodd, the attorney for both officers, disagrees.

“There wasn’t a single written complaint from either man’s file that was brought into evidence,” Dodd said. “There was not a single citizen complaint that was entered into evidence. There was not a single written police complaint entered against either gentleman. In fact, there was evidence that the only evidence of complaints of any knowing about any problems that existed came after the mayor began his campaign to get rid of these two men.”

In July, Sorrell alleged that Carbon Hill Mayor Chris Hart suspended him in retaliation for filing a complaint against him with the Alabama Ethics Commission.

The Council voted unanimously to not have the hearing in executive session as requested by Dodd.

Guin said because Sorrell discussed this matter with the media, “it would not have been fair to the mayor and Council to hold it (the hearing) in secret.”

Dodd said having the meeting in public was unfair to a different officer who was alleged to have beaten an inmate.

“He was hot under the collar,” Dodd said about the officer. “He wanted to know why this wasn’t done in executive session when his name was being dragged through the mud. All I could say was, ‘I’m sorry. I tried, but they denied it.’”

Dodd said in his closing arguments he told the Council that “no logical person could have possibly voted to terminate those men based solely on the evidence that was produced at that hearing.”

Guin said the hearing was a difficult challenge for the Carbon Hill officials.

“This is probably the most distasteful thing a mayor and council has to go through,” Guin said.

Dodd said King and Sorrell have “several recourses available” because they had their rights “egregiously violated” by the city officials.

Dodd added, “There’s no doubt that Carbon Hill was a safer place to live while those two men were on duty. Statistically and anecdotally, that is beyond question.”

Hart declined to comment on the firings, but said the city will now begin taking applications for a new police chief and police officers. He said anyone interested in an officer position should stop by Carbon Hill City Hall Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. to fill out an application. Hart said those interested in the chief’s position should do the same but also leave a resume along with the application.

“We’ve been a little short-handed while these two were on suspension, but things have been running smooth,” Hart said. “We will now start looking to fill the positions, but we want to make sure we have the right people in place.”

Carbon Hill also has an opening at city hall for a city clerk. Hart said city clerk Polly Haley recently resigned due to health reasons. He said the window for applicants closed Thursday and city officials would begin sorting through more than 50 applicants today. Hart said he hoped to have a list of final candidates and start interviews by late next week.

“If everything goes as planned, we’ll do interviews next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” he said. “After those are finished, we’ll decide who the right person is and hopefully make a hire at our next council meeting on Aug. 19.”