Allowing the sunshine to come in again

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 23, 2007

Open meetings and open records are a cornerstone to democracy. Democracy at its very basic level begins in City Hall.

And so it is with Selma.

Only, a majority of Selma City Council members have decided that the citizens of Selma &045; the same people who elected them &045; didn’t need to know about the findings of a consultant that investigated the Selma Police Department’s inner workings.

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By the way, the same people who elected that majority of city council members also helped fork over the $48,000 in tax money that paid for the entire report, including the management letter.

The Selma Times-Journal obtained the management letter recently. After reading it and digesting it, the management of this newspaper decided to publish the 15-page document without support of advertisers and without editorial comment, except a column, to explain why the newspaper published it, just as we did the 115-page report.

This management report sheds more light on the situation at the Selma Police Department in a condensed form than the bulky report.

In the end, though, the results are the same: The police department suffers from a lack of leadership. Morale is low at the police department. Officers need more training and support. Senior officers resent Chief Jimmy Martin because he skipped from sergeant to chief. Citizens are complaining more and more about public safety. The department needs a new building.

Most importantly is the fact that Mayor James Perkins Jr. knows that his police chief isn’t a good administrator. The letter reveals that information. But Martin is a good cop, Perkins told Dr. Ralph Iomio.

Then maybe Martin needs to be back on the street, but he does not need to sit as chief of police.

Once again, we would call for Martin’s immediate dismissal, appointment of an interim chief of police, and for Perkins to put his citizen’s committee together to hire a new police chief.

Perkins also needs to make the selection of the next chief of police very public, including introducing candidates to the citizens of Selma and following some of the same procedure as the Selma School Board followed in its search for the superintendent of education.

This action on the part of the mayor will help bridge his credibility gap that has gaped wider and wider during this second term of office.

Additionally, the members of the city council that did not respond to inquiries about the management letter should also shoulder their portion of the burden in this credibility gap between City Hall and the citizens of Selma.

Addressing the issues in the management letter publicly is the responsible thing to do.