PALESTINE, TX (KLTV) -
Members of the Palestine community are outraged after their police chief canceled his town hall meeting Tuesday night to avoid discussion about the call for his resignation.
Chief Robert Herbert was set to lead the meeting at Westwood Elementary School in Palestine. Instead, he sat in his car in the school parking lot and sent a lieutenant in to reschedule the meeting.
A letter handed out at the meeting states, "A continuation of council session discussions from last night would hinder the department's ability to provide citizens the information and interaction they deserve." However, information on the city council meeting, specifically the decision to keep Herbert in his current position, is what the crowd felt they deserved.
"After seeing everything this moron has done and you haven't made up your mind yet?," one man asked City Council Member Vernon Denmon Jr. as they stood in the parking lot. The crowd gathered outside after being asked to leave the elementary school cafeteria without any answers to their questions.
"What reason could he have for canceling, what reason could be good enough? Especially when he was already here," says Emily Green, the wife of a Palestine police officer.
"These voices are not going to be heard because someone thinks they should just cancel a meeting. It makes no sense to me," says Robert Pyle, a concerned community member.
The group wants city council to address concerns about Chief Robert Herbert's leadership and the current state of The Palestine Police Department. All the city will say is, "We've been instructed to work together to provide the improvement plan." Still, no one knows exactly what the improvement plan entails. Some aren't even sure the city council's decision is legal.
"A secret action by government is exactly what the open meeting act is meant to prohibit, but it sounds to me like that's exactly what they did last night," says Bill Aleshire, an Austin attorney who takes public information and open meetings cases.
The city disagrees. "The council was completely legal in their action in the fact that their action was a directive to release a statement on their viewpoint in where we are going to handle the process at this point," says Wendy Ellis, the Palestine city manager.
What the crowd Tuesday night does know about this process is the chief's actions are disappointing.
"I think if he were a leader he would be part of the process," Pyle says. "
"I think he is proving to everyone his cowardice and not willing to stand in front of the people who are supposed to be working under him, what does that say to not just them but to the community as a whole?" asks Green.
Green and others say this is not over. They will be at the next town hall meeting, hoping the chief finally faces his community.
City officials say they are not planning to hire an interim police chief. They will continue to work on an improvement plan with Chief Herbert and will discuss his position at a later city council meeting.
Monday, September 1 2014 2:00 AM EDT2014-09-01 06:00:48 GMT
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