ASHLAND, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Ashland Board of Aldermen at its Tuesday night meeting opted to cancel its upcoming hearing that was expected to determine if it would fire Police Chief Gabe Edwards.
The Board went into a closed session during its regularly scheduled Tuesday night meeting. The Board approved the cancelation 4-2. Another date was not set. The "no" votes consisted of Ward 3 Alderman David Wilson and Ward 2 Alderwoman Melissa Old.
The hearing was originally set for Thursday afternoon. Edwards has been suspended since July 17. City leaders have not said why they put Edwards on leave. Scott Young was picked as the interim chief on July 27.
ABC 17 News has reached out to Edwards' attorney and Ashland City Administrator Kyle Michel.
Matt Uhrig, Edwards' attorney, told ABC 17 News in an email that the two sides had "settled," but did not elaborate further.
In a notice of hearing dated Nov. 21, the city claimed “the grounds for the just cause termination” of Edwards includes accusations of:
- "Having committed any act, while engaged in the performance of your duties, that constitutes a reckless disregard for the safety of the public or another law enforcement officer;"
- "Have caused a material fact to be misrepresented for any improper or unlawful purpose;"
- "Have acted in a manner for the sole purpose of furthering your self-interest or in a manner inconsistent with the interests of the public or the Board of Aldermen;"
- "Have violated a written established policy."
The written notice claims Edwards “improperly accessed restricted law enforcement records by falsifying the need for that restricted information (and then publicly distributed that information).” That portion of the notice claims:
- Edwards added his wife and a friend to the department’s list of POST certified officers at a time when neither individual was a member of the police department.
- Edwards allowed an officer to remain on active duty after seeing them “suffer a mental breakdown that would cast serious doubt upon the officer’s fitness to serve in an armed capacity.”
- He made racially insensitive comments
According to state law, a police chief can be removed after a written notice is issued to the chief no fewer than 10 business days before the meeting in which their removal is to be considered. The law indicates that a chief can be removed by a two-thirds majority vote from its governing body.
Edwards filed a lawsuit against the city on Oct. 23 saying that the city removed him from the job illegally because he criticized the mayor on social media. Several days after the lawsuit was filed, the city released a statement saying that officials were aware of the lawsuit but clarified that Edwards was still employed.
The attorney for the City of Ashland moved the case to federal court earlier last month. The notice of removal stated Edwards’ claims include alleged violations of federal laws.
In a separate lawsuit against the city, a former Ashland police officer claimed in court documents that Edwards was placed on leave three days after he reported alleged misconduct by the chief of police. Edwards was not explicitly named in the lawsuit; however, the timeframe aligns with Edwards’ tenure as police chief.
That lawsuit claimed that the officer reported that Edwards had listed his wife and another one of his friends on the Ashland Police Department roster submitted to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Program, despite neither being employed by the City of Ashland. Documents allege the pair were included on the roster so they could conceal-carry a gun.
Court documents from the officer's lawsuit also allege that Edwards accessed restricted information through the Criminal Justice Information System “without a law enforcement purpose” and then leaked the information publicly under a second, anonymous Facebook account.
The lawsuit also claims Edwards used racial slurs towards Black employees and allegedly offered someone nude photos of an employee’s significant other.
Check back for updates to this developing story.