“Chief Freeman is no longer an employee of the city,” said city manager Frank Etheridge.
Etheridge hinted that the decision had been pending between himself and the city council for some time, and had been spurred in part thanks to the vocal public outcry against Freeman, which came to a head during the March 20 called meeting that upheld the termination of city firefighter Johnny Stephens.
“We had a difference of management styles and at this point we’re moving forward,” said Etheridge. “We’re going to miss his skills, but we’re going to take a different path.”
Assistant chief Bengie Clift will be taking over as interim chief until the city is able to find a new public safety director. The job includes roles as the city’s police chief and fire chief.
“We will be having that planning session this weekend,” said Etheridge of the council’s upcoming work weekend. “I have some thoughts. ... I will be meeting with the public safety department Friday and I’ll give them my thoughts.”
Freeman will receive his due salary pay and payment for his unused vacation time, as well as his retirement, according to Etheridge.
The city has not determined whether a broad search will have to be conducted outside the city in order to find Freeman’s replacement.
“Will there be a search? At this point that hasn’t been decided,” said Etheridge.