By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: Mar. 7, 2018 | 11:20 a.m.
Second special meeting called for Wednesday afternoon at Waverly Town Hall
TOWN OF WAVERLY – Controversy is increasing concerning a letter dated February 26, in which Waverly Mayor Walter J. Mason informed Waverly Police Chief Derrick Banks that he was suspended without pay. The action appears to have been the result of a unilateral decision by the mayor, and Waverly Town Councilwoman Barbara Taylor verified that it prompted the scheduling of an Emergency Town Council meeting on Friday. When asked who called for the meeting, she said, “Mr. Thompson and myself so we can find out what’s going on, because we don’t know.”
Contrary to rumors and reports being circulated at that time, the letter made no mention of any criminal activity involving Chief Banks. The letter read, in part, “Violating Workplace Rule / Failing to Obey a Proper Direction / Insubordination – Section 13.2, D & F of the Town of Waverly Personnel Policy Manuel (sic)” and the explanation following the heading includes, in part, “… you became very rude and insubordinate. You raised your voice at me and hung the phone up while I was speaking to you.”
When reached for comment prior to the meeting, Chief Banks said that he feels that his reputation has been tarnished by the action, especially as, since becoming the Chief of the Waverly Police Department, he has neither been written up nor called before the council. He added, “How can he go from not even a reprimand to a four-week suspension without pay?”
On Friday afternoon at the appointed hour for the duly posted Town Council meeting, nearly every seat in the meeting room at Waverly Town Hall was filled with local citizens. But there was no sign of Mayor Mason or council members Barbara Banks, Kayda Thornton, and Van Turner. In response to at least two calls placed to him, Mason indicated that he would not be attending, and was “unavailable until Monday.”
Council President Henry Thompson listens to citizen concerns flanked by two empty chairs. (Terry Harris/The Sussex-Surry Dispatch)
Subsequently, President Thompson said the following: “The mayor advised that he will be absent and not available until Monday. Pursuant to Charter and Resolution the President Pro Tem shall possess the same power and discharge municipal duties of the mayor during the absence, illness or inability of the mayor. We have documented it. The police officer personally called and he (the mayor) said again he will not be available until Monday. And that’s the Mayor, personally.” After a brief pause, he continued, “Pursuant to the resolution and the charter, subject to further action, the chief of police is hereby reinstated and is entitled to all privileges and liberties as chief of police. And I make that decision based on the mayor indicating – he told me that he would be absent and not available for these duties until Monday. So Chief, you are hereby reinstated and we will make all efforts to, if need be, have another meeting, and we welcome you back…” at which point he was interrupted by enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
The roomful of Waverly citizens discussed the issue for an hour and a half, with many speaking up to express frustration over both the mayor’s actions and his non-attendance at the meeting. While several from the crowd spoke out against the suspension of Chief Banks, no one present voiced support of the action.
A.G. Futrell, Waverly District representative to the Sussex County Board of Supervisors, received numerous nods of agreement when he said, “Mr. Thompson, you’re the president. Mason is the mayor. You’ve got your council members. You guys are selected from the people here to run and conduct that meeting. He can only bring stuff to you. His ideas, his thoughts, don’t make it. It’s for the council, the five of you, to do the job – what the people want.”
Comments by Clyde Johnson, another local resident, were also received enthusiastically, when he said, in part, “I think it’s a shame. Government is supposed to be for the people by the people – not just for the select few. For a group of people to hold the citizens hostage is wrong. With their inaction, that’s exactly what they’re doing. I applaud Mr. Thompson for his courage in making a decision to bring the chief of police back. It was the right decision to make. Going forward, I hope it’s upheld.”
When asked afterward for comments about the meeting – or lack thereof – Council President Thompson said “It did my heart good to see participation by the citizens of Waverly, and I hope that such participation continues.” When pressed for further comment, he spoke at length of what a great town Waverly is, but chose not to comment on the situation at hand, merely adding, “The meeting spoke for itself.”
A second special meeting to address the matter is scheduled for Wednesday, March 7, at 5:00 p.m. in the Waverly Town Hall.