SHEFFIELD - The Quad-Cities Daily last Saturday published it exclusive one-on-one interview with Greg Ray, Sheffield’s reinstated Chief of Police. Ray had just 2 days prior been vindicated by the Civil Service Board as he fought to get his job back. Today, we had a chance to sit down with Mayor Ian Sanford at his office and get his take on the Chief’s reinstatement. Sanford, who brought the charges against Ray of failing to do his job properly, gave what appeared to be an honest, heart-felt assessment of the episode as well as a look forward.
Steve Wiggins – I’ve got to tell you… It didn’t go the way I thought it was going to go.
Ian Sanford – Well, you know… as in everything, I think there’s always a 50-50 chance… one way or another.
Steve Wiggins – Yeah, but not for something like this. Usually a Civil Service Board sides with their Mayor and then the case goes to court. Let’s face it..
Ian Sanford – Well, I thought… it was kind of a roller coaster… there were highs and lows in the process. But I thought… I think I may have stated this (in testimony)… that perhaps maybe Chief Ray comes back, but (in the imagined words of the civil service board) “you’ve got to communicate better, you’ve got to do so-and-so… da-da-da-ta-da…” but it (the Board’s decision) was blank and that’s ok. You know, I don’t want to sit on that Civil Service Board, it’s a tough thing. I know they took it very seriously. They know the Act (Civil Service Act) – I don’t, and I will probably never. (laughs) I’ve got other things to do.
Do I regret it? No! Not at all, I think it was a great learning experience. It was out in the open. I know the procedures better. And frankly, from what I heard and what I understand… they kept asking (me) “Did you ever tell him (Chief Ray) if he-did-not-do-these-things that he might be terminated?” Well, no. That would be with everybody that I ask to do something: ‘And by the way, if you don’t (comply with my request) you may be terminated.’ Well, if that’s what they want, then every communication will probably have that on it. And we’ll put a time frame on it. (They asked me), “Did you give him a time and a date that you wanted this (task) done?” (I replied) “No”. So anyway, some changes… He’s (Chief Ray) the one I’m talking about now… but that goes for anybody in the City. But it wasn’t a pleasant experience for any party – at all. But I also think that from my position when I hear (complaints) from The Council… from the Citizens, I can’t just sweep it away and act like “It’ll be okay.” I’ve got to do something. I also thought, you know a year ago, or whenever when we asked for his resignation and he asked for a chance and we gave it to him, that maybe that was a hint. (Imagining what Ray might have told himself following this notice) “Maybe if I don’t do these things, they’re serious about this.” Did he know? In my mind, I can justify that he did… in his mind, maybe not… don’t know… didn’t say… But the bottom line is, they (The Board) came to their decision. I accept that decision. We’ll move on. It’s a new day. I just think I’m going to have to do some things differently… and you (Wiggins) have known me all my life. And you know I’m pretty easy going. and maybe that was part of my problem.
Steve Wiggins – Maybe become a little more detail oriented?
Ian Sanford – That would fit in. Normally this hasn’t presented a problem… with any other department. I had a little flicker of a problem with another department, but we resolved quickly.
Steve Wiggins – What was that deal you just talked about wherein you asked for Ray’s resignation?
Ian Sanford – I’ll have to look it back up. It was, once again, it was the Council… hearing little tidbits. And that was the one (the meeting) where Waylon Hughley (Council member at the time) and I met with (the Chief) over some of these same (type of) issues.
Steve Wiggins – And did you tell the Chief at that time that he had to take corrective action or you were going to fire him?
Ian Sanford – No I think we said, “We will give you three months.”
Steve Wiggins – You asked him for his resignation?
Ian Sanford – Yes.
Steve Wiggins – So you were going to fire him at first.. But he asked for another chance and you gave him three months to take corrective measures?
Ian Sanford – Yes.
Steve Wiggins – And this was in early 2012?
Ian Sanford – Or maybe 2011.
Steve Wiggins – So he had to know that things were tightening up around here… Interesting. So Ian, do you feel that you had done enough of your ‘due-diligence” to warrant taking this action?
Ian Sanford – Steve, we took action on things we were actually witnessing. Once again… What we heard at the hearing (evidence brought forth by Ray’s attorneys), …if we had heard that beforehand, we probably wouldn’t have had to (take this action and) have the hearing. Because we were just left in the dark! And then, until I saw the letter that he (Ray) had written to Officer (Name withheld), the Council and myself had no other reason but to believe that he had said he was going to do something and he didn’t.
Steve Wiggins – Because it’s not that he didn’t do it, but that he didn’t communicate the fact that he had done it (taken appropriate disciplinary action against an officer).
Ian Sanford – Well, according to what I heard I guess I was supposed check up on it by digging into personnel files.
Steve Wiggins – Hmmm…
Ian Sanford – And Mrs. McCleary… Let me speak for her…
Steve Wiggins – Hey that was an embarrassing moment in the hearing!
Ian Sanford – Well… Yes… Yes and no… Once again… what we will never know is what time she went down there (the police station). (Then-Council Woman, Janet McCleary made a complaint to the Police Department about suspicious activity at a house that she had under a real estate sales contract. One of the causes of action in Mayor Sanford’s complaint against Ray, was this particular episode. McCleary testified that the Police never responded to her complaint. Ray’s lawyer, Tony Hughes, himself a former police officer, proved at the hearing that her complaint was not factual. He presented an official police report showing that officers responded to the home in less that 15 minutes from the time of her complaint. They did a thorough inspection of the property and found no activity, illegal or otherwise, going on at the empty home.) The bottom line is that she called Chief Ray and asked him to get back in touch with her and let her know (what the officers found). Until the testimony (at this hearing) she didn’t know that anybody (police officers) had ever been up there (the house).
Steve Wiggins – And they testified that they can’t call back everybody that makes a complaint…
Ian Sanford – I think I would send an e-mail or call back a Council Person… But… I’m not re-fighting this thing. It is what it is and I’m fine with it. You know… We’ll move on.
I’ve never been through this process and I didn’t have any guidance as to how to go through this process. So, I just felt in my position (as Mayor) it was up to me to do something. and I did have the blessing of the Council to do it. If I can sum this up with one word, I guess it was “Frustration”.
Steve Wiggins – “Frustration” with the whole panoply of events with the Chief. It wasn’t just one single issue. More like, “This is no way to run a railroad, and it’s time for a change.”
Ian Sanford – That is what we thought. And contrary to what many people out there (in the City) probably think is a personal vendetta. I have no vendetta against him. I went down there (the day Sanford fired Ray) I said, “Chief this isn’t Ian talking to Greg, this is the Mayor talking to the Police Chief.” And I think some people thought I had someone in mind that I wanted in there (as the new Chief of Police). I hadn’t gone that far. That is absolutely, 100 percent not true. I’ve had one of the guys that come out of this office (Sheffield Police Department) say to me, “If Greg goes, do I have a chance to be Police Chief?” I said, “You know, you can apply like anybody else.” I didn’t have a single soul in mind… there wasn’t an opening!
I don’t hold grudges. I’m fine. We’ll move on. And I just know there are some things I’ve got to do a little differently. Am I going to pick on him? No! I’m not going to pick on him. That’s not my mode of operation. But I’m still Mayor. He’s still the Police Chief. And there are certain expectations that come with that. And I’ll do a better job.
Steve Wiggins – So you’d say this was a great learning experience?
Ian Sanford – Oh, absolutely!
Steve Wiggins – You’ll make a better Mayor?
Ian Sanford – I think so. And this was a learning experience. Don’t think that I didn’t have some sleepless nights if they terminated his employment his livelihood would be over for a period of time anyway. Who wants to do that? It’s not like we all sat around a table and said, “Whose life can we ruin today”! It hurt. There is absolutely nothing personal at all. Never has been and hopefully never will be.
Steve Wiggins – You’re happy with City Attorney Ben Gardner’s performance?
Ian Sanford – Absolutely!
Steve Wiggins – Did anyone on the Council suggest to you to run this by an outside attorney?
Ian Sanford – No.
Steve Wiggins – Would you say that the 5 Council members were equally in favor of this action?
Ian Sanford – Yes I would. It was unanimous.
Steve Wiggins – There was no serious reservation on the part of any Council Member?
Ian Sanford – Uhmm… Not really.
Steve Wiggins – You had the complete support of the Council.
Ian Sanford – In fact I did! I wish it (this task) had fallen on somebody else… But it fell on me as the Mayor! I’ve got to be tough when I have to. I have to do things I don’t like. I can have fun and be fun… But I know when to be serious.
Steve Wiggins – Let’s think forward… Do you think that you and Chief Ray ought to go out and get a hamburger or something together. And see if you can try to get some things sorted out… back together?
Ian Sanford – Yeah. We may do that. That’s why I want to talk to him. Friday, he was busy, I was busy. (As of this interview, Monday, February 28 at 12-noon, the Mayor and the Chief had not gotten together, had not spoken to one another.)
Steve Wiggins – How’s this relationship supposed to mend? The city’s at an important crossroads right now. Sheffield’s gone through a difficult time. Sides were being taken. Opinions were being formed about both you and Chief Ray. Sounds like you and Greg have some fences to mend.
Ian Sanford – Yeah, but I think they might be easily mended. I hope so!
Steve Wiggins – So what effort are you going to try to rebuild the trust in your relationship?
Ian Sanford – I want a conversation… not a one-way one. And just kind of talk-it-out. And hope that he understands our (the Council’s and Mayor’s) frustration… What our frustrations were prior to this. We’ll start over! What I want is what’s best for the citizens of Sheffield… that’s who I represent. And at the time, I didn’t think he was representing the citizens as well as he should have been. But it’s all out in the open now. I think it’s going to be a whole lot of eyes looking to see who’s doing what and when.
Steve Wiggins - What do you think this episode means for Sheffield, and what do you thing that you have learned?
Ian Sanford – Well, the information (about this episode), it’s out there. So I kind of feel like a new person.
Steve Wiggins -New chapter.
Ian Sanford -Absolutely! It’s going to be OK. And I have no reason to believe otherwise… If he’ll just do his job, then life is good!