Hayneville Town Council: Mitchell is back as chief

Published 8:51 pm Thursday, December 13, 2018

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By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

As a result of Monday night’s Hayneville Town Council meeting:

  • The officer involved in a shooting in Hayneville will no longer be working on the streets until a State Bureau of Investigations investigation is complete.
  • Hayneville Police Chief Kelvin Mitchel, who had been on paid administrative leave with notice of termination, has been reinstated to active status.
  • And Hayneville town employees will get their first pay raise in eight or nine years.

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In an emotionally charged meeting of the Hayneville Town Council on Monday, Dec. 10, Tamera McCall appeared before the council to request that Chris Stewart, who was identified in the public meeting as the shooting officer involved in the shooting of her uncle, 55-year-old George Crenshaw, on Wednesday, Nov. 14, be kept off the streets until the SBI investigation in the matter is completed.

McCall told the Signal that Stewart had been placed on administrative leave following the shooting. But she said the Friday after her uncle’s shooting, she said, Acting Police Chief G. Lashun Hutson let him return to the street.

She appeared before the council Monday night to express fear for herself and the life of Stewart and to request he be taken off the streets.

She asked the council, “Do you not fear his life, as well as everyone else’s in this open investigation.” She said, “I fear for my life. I don’t know how he feels about me.” She also said people want to do something and, “You are putting him in a situation by letting him come back on the streets.”

McCall said state rules say he’s not supposed to be on the street. And she told Hutson, “’Shun, I fear for my life. I feel that you put him out there so that one of us will pop off and do something to him… or who says he’s not going to pop off and do it again.”

Hutson said, “No police officer goes out and expects to have to kill somebody. And no police officer goes out and wants to be killed. The purpose for going out was to apprehend… that’s it.”

Hutson also said Stewart was doing administrative duty.

Tuesday afternoon Hayneville Mayor David Daniel confirmed that Stewart will be on paid administrative leave until the SBI “completes the investigation and he gets cleared to go back to work. He won’t be on the streets at all.”

The fate of Hayneville Police Chief Mitchell remained unclear immediately after Monday’s meeting. Following a due process hearing the previous week, a motion to terminate Mitchell Monday night ended in a tie with Council members Sharon Reeves and Cynthia McDonald voting “yes,” Daniel and Council member Kim Payton voting “no,” and Council member Lula Tyson-Bailey “abstained.”

Daniel told the Signal he was checking with legal counsel to see where that vote left Mitchell, who had been on paid administrative leave, with Hutson as acting chief.

Wednesday, Daniel informed the Signal, “Mitchell is still the chief of police.” He said four votes were required to terminate Mitchell. Now, he said, “Mitchell will go back to being the chief, and if ‘Shun Huston wants to stay on as a deputy to Mitchell, that’s what would happen.”

Daniel said he checked with the both the town’s insurance attorney Robbie Hyde and town attorney Michael Strickland, who concurred that Mitchell is chief.

Mitchell appeared before the council Monday night with his attorney Ashley Smith.

Mitchell told the council, “I appreciate the time that I spent here in Hayneville as your police chief. I dedicated practically my whole life to law and service here.”

He said, however, he was “tremendously disappointed” in how he was handled.

Mitchell said at a due process hearing, he had a letter that told the things he didn’t do including several businesses broken into. He said, “I had documentation of arrests and prison time for each one of those.” He said, “Actually, each item they had here, I had an arrest for each one of those… Each item here, the arrest was made by me, personally.”

He said he is the Police Chief of Mosses on a volunteer basis, but only took that job after his final termination on June 11. “So that would not have been a conflict of interest.”

However, Mitchell said the most “damaging thing” was a signed affidavit by Sheriff John Williams that he (Mitchell) didn’t respond to calls in Hayneville. “That actually broke me,” he said.

Mitchell said the sheriff used to call him “brother.” And Mitchell said he actually didn’t have a problem with Williams saying what he said about him not responding, “Had it been true.”

Mitchell said Williams came to him and told him he didn’t have to answer calls in Hayneville because his deputies would handle it. But, Mitchell said, he told the sheriff he had been on calls for eight years in Hayneville, every night. “You don’t have to catch my calls, but thank you, but no thank you.”

He concluded his comments Monday night saying, “Maybe I have a chance to continue.”

Daniel reported that the about 10 percent of town’s water meters do not have a backflow preventers on them which is allowing leaks on the customers’ side. He said the town has been promised backflow preventers.

He said it is hoped that all of the meters can be read from the office or from nearby. “It is our strong feeling that the problems will be resolved.”

The council approved a 5 percent pay raise for town employees, their first increase in eight or nine years, according to Daniel.

And the council tabled action to give Daniel authority to add Servline Insurance for water leaks to water customers’ bills.

With the water leak insurance, if a water bill is above the minimum, a customer could file up to two claims per year. After sending in receipts, showing they had had a leak on their side of the water line repaired, the insurance would pay anything over the minimum bill.

Daniel said a resolution is necessary before the council can take action on the insurance. But he said the cost of the insurance added to customers’ monthly bill would be about $1.38 more for about 2,500 gallons of water.

Daniel said the pay raise for town employees will be covered by increased water revenues.

No one was present to for a Maulik Patel & Gummie (Package Store) item on the agenda. And no action was taken on that matter.

The council approved the minutes of its Nov. 12 meeting and the payment of bills. And the council approved holidays including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day off for city employees.

Jimmy Davis appeared before the council to ask questions about how the city will move forward. Another citizen said she wanted to form a town committee for town events such as Fourth of July fireworks, parades, etc.  James Smith appeared to say it is the people of a town that make it great and need to pull together. And Janet Bell complained that while she wanted to speak, she was not allowed to because she was not on the agenda.

Council member Justin Pouncey was absent from Monday’s meeting.

And Daniel reminded every