Police chief resigns; hearing cancelled

Linda Trest

A public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday evening to discuss the suspension/termination of police chief Steve Goodwin was canceled. Goodwin submitted his letter of resignation to city officials at 3:50 p.m. Friday. 

“On Aug. 31, the Chief of Police Steven Goodwin was presented with written notice (pursuant to Missouri State Statute) from the City of Gerald stating the City’s intent to remove him from office,” said Mayor Cary Parker. 

On Aug. 31, the city also suspended Goodwin, with pay. The public hearing, to be held as part of a special meeting, was scheduled to comply with state statutes requiring a minimum of ten days notice before terminating a chief of police.

Had the hearing taken place, the city’s attorney would have read the charges against Goodwin. Then Goodwin, or his attorney, would be offered a chance to answer the charges. Lastly, the Board of Aldermen would have decided whether to reinstate or terminate Goodwin.

A list of those charges was given to Goodwin at the time of his suspension. 

Goodwin came to City Hall in person Friday to hand deliver his letter of resignation, effective immediately, to City Clerk Jane Hungler. 

The letter Goodwin wrote concluded “Many citizens of Gerald have stepped up to voice their opinion in this fight, please do not stop. Your voice should be heard. I am but one man and have a family to support. To fight this takes more money than a police officer makes. Please make sure your voice is heard. I thank you for your support.” 

Stress in trying to not take a side in the political games of the city, was Goodwin’s motivating factor in deciding to leave, according to his letter. 

While the city would have been able to make public their charges against Goodwin if he would have stayed to face them, the resignation changed the game. 

At that point, Goodwin’s personnel file again became a closed record, including the charges leveled at him by the city. 

Several people familiar with the situation have indicated of the more than 20 charges listed against Goodwin, included some that were quite serious. 

With Goodwin’s resignation, those charges will never be made public unless some of them would precipitate criminal charges.

When Goodwin came to town with his letter of resignation, he also handed out a written response to five of the city’s charges. 

The first involves a traffic grant from the state to cover overtime pay. Goodwin said he filed the paperwork according to a procedure explained to him by a previous administration.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol investigated the matter. The City of Gerald was asked to pay back the grant money. No charges were filed against Goodwin.

A second point of contention was monthly reports. Goodwin was asked to submit a monthly report to the aldermen. These reports covered department statistics, schedules and gas mileage. Goodwin says the city lists eight months in the current year in which he failed to provide the reports. Goodwin says that he or his lieutenant have submitted and have copies of all of these reports that were claimed to have not been received.

A previous mayor had approved Goodwin taking a vehicle home with him after each shift. This was another charge against Goodwin who says a motion was never made, nor a direct order given from this board to do otherwise.

Item number four involves Goodwin spending more than $500 on a purchase without board approval. He says he has acknowledged that a set of tires for one of the department’s vehicles ran over his $500 limit. He asked that the cost be split over two separate invoices in an effort to get around that. 

The fifth and final item involves the hiring of Gerald’s newest officer, Rich Anderson. The aldermen charge that Anderson was allowed to work before completing employment forms, the orientation program or a drug test. 

Goodwin responds that in order to get Anderson fully trained as quickly as possible, he was allowed to ride along with Lt. Mason Griffith on the weekend after his hiring. Goodwin says at no time was Anderson allowed to handle any vehicle or calls on his own. He then completed the hiring process Monday morning. Except for orientation, for which Goodwin says there is no policy.