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Sturgeon quickly puts police chief on unpaid leave

Just four days after a Boone County judge gave Sturgeon’s former police chief his job back, the city has put him on unpaid leave.

ABC 17 News confirmed that the board of aldermen came to a “consensus decision” to put Greg Halderman on leave Monday night during a special meeting. City attorney Cydney Mayfield said the board held the meeting under an emergency provision of state law allowing governmental bodies to meet without notifying the public within 24 hours.

Judge Jeff Harris ordered that Halderman get his job as chief of Sturgeon’s police back on Friday. The board voted 3-1 to fire him in March 2017 over allegations of alcohol abuse and inappropriate behavior, which led to Halderman suing the city. Harris ruled on part of the lawsuit in January that the city violated procedures for firing a police chief laid out in state law, and ordered the city restore him to his post and give him back pay.

Mayfield said she was not sure if the board had a specific reason to put Halderman on leave beyond Harris’ order that they comply with state law.

A copy of the decision signed by Mayor Danny Joiner said the board put him on leave “pending a formal hearing on your position as Chief of Police.”

Andy Hirth, attorney for Halderman, said he notified the city on Sunday that Halderman would be coming back to work on Tuesday. The city, he said, has the prerogative to try and fire him again pursuant to state law, but took issue with their decision to put him on unpaid leave.

“Until he’s been removed, he’s still the chief of police, and there is no statutory basis for putting him on administrative leave without pay.”

Harris’ Friday order does not specify when Halderman was to come back to work as chief of police, or how much back pay he was entitled to receive.

Hirth said he may ask Judge Harris to hold the city in contempt of court due to the board’s action.

“They have an order reinstating Greg Halderman and ordering him to be paid back pay,” Hirth said. “And he’s ready to show up to work, and the city says, ‘No, and we’re not going to pay you.’ I don’t know how to interpret that, other than contempt of court.”

State law requires a governmental body to hold a hearing before firing a police chief. The city must notify the chief within ten days of the hearing, and specify what reason they have to do so. The chief is allowed to question witnesses and evidence presented at the hearing.

Harris ruled in January that the city did not follow proper procedures for a “contested hearing” when it fired Halderman in 2017. As of Tuesday, the city has not appealed Harris’s decision.

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