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CPOA: City proposal to close employee hearings unconstitutional

The Columbia Police Officer’s Association held a press conference Tuesday, denouncing City Manager Mike Matthes’ recent proposal to change an ordinance.

If approved, a new ordinance would not allow city employees to have public hearings in front of the personnel advisory board.

CPOA called the proposal “unconstitutional.”

The proposal was made at the city council meeting on September 8.

“Our question is, why are we going backwards and moving away from transparency and openness?” said Dale Roberts with the CPOA. “We were told repeatedly this is the goal of the city manager to make this change and I have to be candid and say what are we trying to hide? Why do we want to have closed hearings?”

Former Columbia police officer Rob Sanders echoed the same question when ABC 17 News talked to him Tuesday.

“I just don’t feel like the city manager has the best interest of the employee in mind with this and I think it should be an employee’s choice,” Sanders said.

Sanders was fired from the Columbia Police Department after he was accused of assault when he pushed a prisoner in a holding cell back in 2011.

He was found not guilty and is still fighting to get his job back.

Sanders has been the only city employee to ever request a public hearing. His request was later granted.

He said he feels there are details in his case that would not have come to light if the hearing would have been closed to the public.

“If an employee is appealing something that he thinks is wrong, or in policy, and he’s being mistreated or mishandled or singled out, I feel that it should be an open hearing so that anyone with a vested interest or an interest in the city government can take a look,” Sanders said.

ABC 17 News reached out to City Manager Mike Matthes to ask him more about why he is proposing this change, but calls were not returned.

The council is set to vote on the proposal at their next meeting Monday, September 21.

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