Belington Council rejects police chief’s resignation

The consideration of Belington Police Chief Keith Rowan’s resignation was a hot topic during Thursday’s Belington City Council meeting.

Rowan planned to tender his resignation during the April 4 meeting, but council members declined to accept or deny his resignation because it was not on that night’s agenda.

Rowan was hired by the City of Belington in January 2011. He was recommended for the position by then-Chief Jeff Roy. Roy said Rowan would make a great addition to the force as he had recently retired from the Buckhannon Police Department after 32 years of service.

Mayor Jody Haller recommended Rowan for the Belington Chief of Police position in October 2011 after Roy resigned to take a position in Randolph County.

However, earlier this year Haller sent Rowan a letter listing 10 ways in which Rowan could improve his job performance.

During Thursday’s meeting, Councilman Richard Cox said Rowan is a great community officer.

“Everyone has faults,” Cox said.

“All things being perfect, I would love to stay, but under the circumstances, I am leaving tomorrow,” said Rowan.

“We have a police committee and your resignation should have come to us and we could have discussed your intentions,” said Councilman Max Grove.

A roll call vote was requested by Councilman Bobby King. Votes to accept Rowan’s resignation came from Max Grove and Suzanna Skidmore. Votes to reject his resignation came from Richard Cox, Bobby King, Sonny Moore, James Lawrence and Marshall Reed.

Haller asked Rowan if leaving was what he wanted to do.

“No, but when you blindsided me with that letter, I knew I had to leave,” Rowan said. “The letter was not sent through the police committee, either. It had 10 things to improve on and obviously it’s the same old stuff. It was a personal attack on me. It was just your personal opinion.”

“The information on that list was liability issues,” Haller said. “No complete duty belt and no radio are safety issues and I care about officers and I know things. Every time I hand something down, you resign.”

Grove said Rowan has tendered his resignation three times during his tenure as chief, but has only taken his grievances to the police committee once.

“Each time you received a reprimand, you threatened to resign, putting us on the edge of a cliff,” Grove said.

“I appreciate all you have done,” Rowan said. “If I thought the situation would change, I would stay.”

“These are officer safety issues,” Haller, who also serves as the chief of police in Junior, said. “If I’m out there dealing with someone, I want everything I can get my hands on if the situation goes bad. It is about improving officer safety.”

“You also said I should write more tickets,” Rowan said. “I write more tickets and patrol more hours than any other officer.”

“You wrote a citation for a seat belt violation,” Haller said. “Two weeks later you wrote another citation for a seat belt violation for the same individual. The first offense on each ticket was a warning for speeding. You are sending a message – that it’s OK to speed.”

Despite council voting against accepting his resignation, Rowan insisted that today will be his last day with the department.

During Thursday’s meeting, Belington City Council took the following actions:

– Voted to approve leak adjustments to residents’ water bills.

– Approved spring cleanup for April 27.

– Voted to approve five building permits. The building committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to further research a permit for a new roof to assure the permit agrees with ordinances.

– Voted to approve contacting homeowners in violation of the rights of ways blocked by shrubs or trees, giving them reasonable time for the homeowners to move or remove the shrubs or trees. If not moved in a reasonable time, the street committee will remove them.

The next regular meeting of Belington City Council is slated for 7:30 p.m. May 2 at city hall.