The Livingston Board of Aldermen voted 3-2 to immediately suspend Police Chief Greg Etheredge for three weeks without pay Monday night.
The decision comes after at least $27,000 missing from the police department as well as several evidence-related issues found by the State Comptroller’s Office.
Alderman Chris Speck made the motion for the length of time that also included a six-month probation period and monthly reports to the Board. Speck said Etheredge did not deserve any further consequence.
“I’m very disappointed in the way this has been going about our chief, because there is nobody better that we can find to run our town,” Speck said.
Speck said several factors played a role in his motion. Speck said he considered the Police Captain at the time who oversaw the evidence room, Etheredge’s family and the money the police chief saved taxpayers.
“I think the social media and the Comptroller’s Office is really putting our chief down,” Speck said. “Our chief, he has done a really good job. He has brought in over $2.7 million since he has been in office as chief. He saved the taxpayers money $50,000 a year just by buying his own cars. That’s roughly five and a half pennies that we have to raise taxes to do.”
Aldermen Chris Speck, John Clough and Ken Dodson voted in favor. Aldermen David Langford and Rex Dale voted against the suspension. Langford said that he did not agree with Speck.
“I try to make the best decisions I can as if the City of Livingston was mine and operating out of my pocket,” Langford said. “If I had as many deficiencies plus losing money, I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t have nobody working for me like that.”
Clough said the situation is obviously serious but was a “sentinel event.” Clough said he believes Etheredge is dedicated as chief, but practices do need to be done differently.
“The reason I’m supporting suspension, probation and monthly oversight for the next six months is that the experience of dealing with problems like this can have a very positive outcome,” Clough said. “It can be positive for the organization. It can create more confidence on the part of the members of that organization in this case the police department. It can contribute to a culture of safety in that other people who are afraid they might have done something wrong will not have a fear of being immediately fired.”
Dodson said the findings in the investigation are all correctable, and the city has already “turned the page.” Dodson referred to a finding against the Board of Aldermen for misappropriating money to the drug fund under the same investigation.
“We were guilty of big dollars misappropriated, and I guarantee we’re going to forgive ourselves and swear that we’ll do better and move forward,” Dodson said. “I think these are correctable actions, and we afford that same luxury to Chief Etheredge.”
Alderman Kelly Coleman was not present for Monday’s board meeting due to being out of town. Mayor Curtis Hayes spoke on his behalf reading a statement that Coleman sent. Hayes said Coleman requested a special called meeting to review the findings.
Coleman also requested to vote electronically, but Attorney John Meadows said state statute would not allow Coleman to participate.
After the meeting, Etheredge said that he appreciates the Board of Aldermen and the people of Livingston for their support.