The entire police department of Kimberling City turned in their resignations, leaving citizens concerned about why.
A Tuesday, Sept. 7, a Facebook post by former mayor and alderman, Jason Hulliung, stated, ‘Every Single Kimberling City Police Officer has resigned. The City Hall phone number is 417-739-4903.’ This post was shared in several Kimberling City Facebook groups and raised questions and concerns about why all five officers would all resign.
The Kimberling City Police Department is normally staffed with 6 officers, including the chief and a detective. One of the staff retired in July.
“We had a department of five (officers). We had one retire back in July and he hadn’t been replaced yet,” Kimberling City Mayor Bob Fritz said. “The detective (Robert Smigiel) retired after 20 some odd years and he moved to Florida.”
Fritz said each of the officers turned in letters of resignation that stated personal reasons or, in the case of two of the officers, no reasons behind their resignation.
According to Fritz, the first resignation came for the Chief of Police Craig Alexander, on Aug. 23. His resignation was followed by the resignations of the other four police officers: Officer Shaun McCafferty on Sept. 1, Officer Rutger House on Sept. 2, Sergeant Aaron Hoeft on Sept. 7, and Officer Caleb McCarty on Sept. 8.
“On Aug. 23, Chief Craig Alexander turned in his letter of resignation,” Fritz said. “He came to my home and visited with me for about 45 minutes or so. The chief spoke to me and said he was accepting another position because he was needing a change and he wanted to better himself. He thought this was a good time to do it. I visited with him and I had a good working relationship with the chief. In his letter (of resignation) he was very kind to me.”
Fritz said the resignations from the others quickly followed. Officers McCarty and House did not give reasons for resignation in their letters.
“On Sept. 1, officer Shaun McCafferty turned in his letter of resignation. His reason was (he) had been offered an opportunity to better (himself),” Fritz said. “Sept. 2 officer Rutger House turned in his letter of resignation, no reason was given for his resignation but from what I understand now, he is moving to Gulf Shores, Alabama. He is moving out of state. After this I talked to our sergeant Aaron Hoeft, I asked him if he would be interested in being interim police chief because Aaron has been here for 16 years. He said he would think about it, but then on Sept. 7 Sergeant Hoeft turned in his letter of resignation. (His letter) stated unfortunately, by having no qualified officers at this pay rate and no police clerk able to assist in the administration side in the department, he felt it wasn’t possible for him to do the job to the best of his ability. Then Sept. 8, officer Caleb McCarty turned in his letter of resignation. No reason was given (in McCarty’s letter).”
Hulliung said the resignations of the officers leaves the entire police department unstaffed, as the police secretary resigned prior to this.
“Basically every single police officer in the police department submitted a letter of resignation,” Hulliung said. “There are various different stopping points as to when their last days are, but the entire police force has resigned. Prior to this we also had our court clerk, who served a dual purpose, as court clerk and the police secretary, she resigned. A while back, a couple weeks before all of this, so we are basically going into zero employees down at the police department, once the last (officer’s) last day is gone.”
Fritz said the police department resigning came as a surprise to the city.
“It is unfortunate that the officers had to leave the city at this time. It is all unexpected. The short notice is very disappointing,” Fritz said. “I was really surprised. If you hear the dates Aug. 23, Sept. 1, Sept. 2, Sept. 7 and Sept. 8, you know no notice. I had no earlier warning that the officers were going to do this. I talked to the officers last week to try to encourage them and see what I could do as mayor. They said nothing. They said they were satisfied and this was just something they had to do after the chief was leaving.”
Hulliung said he believes the fact every police officer and several other city workers resigned shows a bigger issue with the city government.
“I am a previous alderman, a previous mayor, I have served on the Parks and Recreation Board, I actually started the Parks and Recreation Board, and I have served on the Planning and Zoning Committee. I am a business owner and a long time resident of Kimberling City, for over 20 years. I have a serious issue with my entire police department resigning because the entire police department resigning indicates there is a bigger problem. After speaking with a number of different people and going back into the (city’s) books and looking, since our current city administrator and current mayor have been in office, we have lost two long time employees of the sewer plant that were our operators. We had to outsource (the sewer jobs). We lost a 17 year employee from the Public Works Department. We lost our court clerk and now we have lost our entire police department as a result of a mayor and city administrator.”
Fritz said he had several meetings with the police officers to ask them if there was anything he could do.
“I had numerous meetings with Chief Alexander, Shuan McCafferty, Aaron Hoeft and Caleb McCarty,” Fritz said. “I did my best to visit with them but to no avail. People have to do what is best for them and have to look out for their livelihood.”
Hulliung said the Kimberling City Police Department was an incredible asset to the city.
“They can spin it any way they want, but the simple fact is when you have that much expertise leaving your community there is a bigger problem. We have an amazing police department that has unbelievable support from the community. For these guys who started their careers, in most cases, in Kimberling City, who have been here for 18 plus years, to leave this job took a really heartfelt decision to make that move,” Hulliung said. “Unfortunately I believe it is due to the current administration, the mayor and the administrator. I would prefer to see a resignation letter from those two rather than from our police department.”
Fritz said he was unaware of any major issues from the police officers.
“I visited with them and they didn’t tell me there were any major issues,” Fritz said.
Hulliung said the problem precedes the resignation of the police department.
“An entire department doesn’t leave for individual, independent reasons. You have to go back a little farther and understand not only did our police department resign, our court clerk resigned, a 17 year employee of Public Works resigned. All of them point to the same issue. It is an administration issue. Clearly this is not a problem with our police department because the resignations go back farther,” Hulliung said. “We have lost massive amounts of long term experience in the city government in a short amount of time. It is definitely an administrative problem. If they can’t see that then they don’t need to be in that position. Somebody who is called the administrator and somebody who is called the mayor and can not see the fact that an entire police department left and there is a bigger issue, they don’t need to be in that position. There is no way that someone in charge of that can say it is all independent, it’s all unique cases. There is now way, if they can’t see the bigger picture then they need to find somebody who can.”
Fritz said the Kimberling City Board of Aldermen had a meeting on Sept. 7 where they were made aware of the resignations and the need to hire a new police force.
“We had a board meeting (on Sept. 7) with the Board of Aldermen,” Fritz said. “They are well aware of everything. We have their full support.”
Hulliung said he is not alone in his opinion there is a bigger issue at hand.
“I am not alone, you can see people’s responses on Facebook, that have the same opinion. Out of all the people that work for our city, the last ones I would want to see leave is the police department,” Hulliung said. “I would be fine with the loss of the city administrator, mayor, and the board of aldermen over the loss of our police department. We have one of the best police departments I have ever seen in my lifetime. To lose that experience and that knowledge to go out the door is just ridiculous. If they can not see there is a bigger problem, they are blind.”
Fritz said the city is not defunding the police and the city has always given the police department things they requested within their budget.
“We provided everything for the police officers within their budget,” Fritz said. “We purchased two new cars and computers with that budget. I asked the chief if there was something they asked for that they didn’t get. He told me ‘Whatever I asked for, I got everything’. I told the citizens (on Sept. 7) as mayor I have to look out for their safety and I assured them everything will be taken care of. We will be taken care of. We will have police protection. We are not doing away with the police department. We aren’t defunding or anything like that.”
Hulliung said there is an obvious problem with the city management with so many employees leaving.
“This is not a coincidence that they all decided to go elsewhere. From an outsider’s viewpoint, we have pay issues, we have micro-management issues, we have all kinds of issues that are going on that result in a work environment that is conducive to everyone resigning,” Hulliung said. “There is a work environment problem if everybody in the department resigns at the same time, there is no denying that.”
Fritz said there are concerns because Kimberling City needs a police department but until new officers are hired the city will depend on the Stone County Sheriff’s Department and the Branson West Police Department.
“We need a police department. We have taken the step to ensure our citizens safety and protection,” Fritz said. “Our city has a mutual aid agreement with the Stone County Sheriff’s Department. We talked to the sheriff and he will be here for our citizens and the city of Branson West will assist our city until our police department is restored to full capacity. Myself and the Board of Alderman have given full approval to recruit a new police chief and supporting staff and that would be as soon as possible. Our city administrator is looking at possible candidates for the police department and chief. I can not speak about more of that as it is a personnel issue and all of those discussions are closed sessions and such.”
Fritz said the Board of Aldermen and city officials have looked at the pay scale for the police officers and every officer received a pay raise this year.
“We talked to the board about looking at our pay scale and everything else. Our pay scale is aligned with MML (Missouri Municipal League). We have looked at communities our size and we are about average with pay,” Fritz said. “At our meetings we have been looking at our pay scale but every police officer got increases in pay this year. It was budgeted for every single police officer to receive a pay increase.”
Fritz said he knows it is important to have citizen’s input in the police department.
“We feel it is important to have citizen control over the police department,” Fritz said. “The civilians have a say in that too so I think it’s important to have citizens control over the police department.”
Fritz said the city is recruiting officers to replace those who resigned.
“We are looking to recruit officers and we are not doing away with anything,” Fritz said. “I want to assure the citizens we are working on these issues and getting a new police department and new police chief. Things will go well,(if) they give us a chance. This all happened and it was unexpected. Their letters of resignation were very kind, there was nothing they were requesting or anything else. They were very nice letters and complimenting and (stated) they enjoyed their time here.”
In a Facebook post, which was shared to the Everything Kimberling City, MO group on Wednesday, Sept. 8, Chief Alexander said, ‘On October 15, 2002, I became what I always dreamed about, a police officer. This was the beginning of my career protecting and serving this great community. On October 1, 2013 I got promoted to Police Chief. I was so humbled, proud and honored.I tried to remain a servant to the people and the officers I worked with. I always wanted this department to be the best it could be.
There is a lot to the job most don’t see and I am not good at explaining it. But today is my last day. I am no longer able to do my very best under the current administration, and the citizens deserve the very best. So to all of those out there who have supported me over the last 18 years, thank you. To those that are happy I am leaving, I’m sorry I failed you. I always did my best. Love you all.
One final time Chief Alexander.’
For more information contact Kimberling City Hall at 417-739-4903.