November 10, 2005

City Council Considering Options for Memphis City Marshal Position

Citing a basic lack of accountability for the position, the Memphis City Council held a lengthy deliberation regarding the future of the city marshal position at its November 3rd meeting. City Marshal Steve Snodgrass was scheduled to be in attendance but informed the council he would be attending a law enforcement meeting out of town.

Council members and Mayor Mike Stone expressed their frustrations with the current situation where the council has little power over the city marshal, which currently is an elected position.

“Basically right now, the only power we have over the position is the ability to set the salary,” Stone stated.

The debate initiated with the agenda item calling for city action to establish the salary for the city marshal term for 2006-2010.

“We have struggled the past eight years with this office,” stated Alderman Ron Gardner. “The council doesn’t have much input to resolve issues that arise here because the marshal is elected, not hired by the city. We can’t hold the office accountable.”

Council members discussed job performance as well as a lack of response to the city’s suggestions and concerns.

City Attorney David Peppard highlighted the October monthly productivity report from the department, citing the fact that just 10 citations were issued.

“Look at the 10 citations this month, which is probably a record since I’ve been here,” he said. Compare that to Queen City where I also am the city prosecutor. Queen City has one part-time officer, and I prosecute more municipal citations there than I do here in Memphis.”

Alderman William Reckenberg also cited problems with complaints and concerns that were not being addressed by the police chief.

“I’m assigned to the police department as the council representative, and I assure you that we have passed on numerous recommendations and requests to the police chief and we have yet to see any of them acted upon,” Reckenberg said.

He questioned the statutes and if the council or the mayor had the authority to remove the office holder or the power to impeach an elected official.

Alderman Lucas Remley questioned if the city is required to maintain the office.

Peppard stated the office is established under Missouri statute, which also offers some basic job descriptions. Peppard noted the position can be eliminated by a vote of the public.

“We went down that road before, and it didn’t fly,” Gardner stated in reference to the city ballot issue in 1998 that would have eliminated the elected post.

The council members agreed that the timing was not right for another run at the ballot issue, since the city marshal position will also be on the April ballot.

Debate then turned to the salary level for the job. The position currently is paid $24,000 annually plus benefits.

There was some consideration offered to establishing a low salary that would in effect likely eliminate the position. The council then would hire a city police chief.

Alderman Remley voiced concern with that option, stating he had discussed the job with several qualified candidates that had noted concerns about the city council having too much power over the police department.

“If the position is run correctly, we [the city council] won’t need to have control and input,” Remley stated.

Alderman Gardner responded, “I’ve been on the council for eight years, and for eight years it hasn’t been run right.”

After much debate the council agreed to grant a standard cost of living raise to the salary, setting the pay rate at $27,000 annually and the ordinance was enacted by a 4-0 vote.

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