SHEFFIELD — Attorneys for Greg Ray argued Friday that neither the mayor nor council told Ray he would be fired as police chief if he failed to follow specific guidelines, while the city's attorney argued the chief needs to go because he, the mayor and council could not work together.
Testimony concluded Friday night in Ray's civil service termination appeal hearing. Board members said they would issue their decision concerning whether to uphold Ray's termination in writing.
"We will review and discuss all of the testimony and evidence that has been presented before we make a decision," said Franklin Brown, chairman of the Sheffield Civil Service Board. "Once that decision is made, both parties and both attorneys will be notified in writing."
Sheffield city prosecutor, Ben Gardner, who represented the city during the hearing, said he expects it will take about a week before the board makes a decision.
"It's going to take them a couple of days to digest everything," Gardner said as he was leaving the City Hall courtroom Friday. "I wouldn't expect to hear anything until near the end of next week."
Ray, 54, was terminated Oct. 26 after being given a choice of resigning or facing termination. Ray has worked in the department since 1992 and served as chief since 2007.
Ray's defense team of Tony Hughes and James Irby noted during Friday's testimony that Ray was never given a job description for the police chief's position, nor has he ever had a job performance review.
Using some of the documents and testimony put into evidence during the hearing, Irby dissected the charges Mayor Ian Sanford used in the termination. Irby asked if Sanford had ever looked into Ray's personnel file before terminating him.
Sanford said he had not and had never looked at Ray's personnel file.
Irby pointed out during testimony that the charges Sanford brought against Ray were never "checked out" by the mayor before Ray was terminated.
During the first day of testimony, which began last week, Sanford said he fired Ray because of insubordination, malfeasance in office and for conduct detrimental to the Sheffield Police Department.
Testimony outlined issues Sanford said led to Ray's dismissal. They include not fully implementing the electronic-citation program in the department; failing to properly respond to complaints about police officers' erratic driving; not providing requested incident reports to the mayor and council; falsely reporting to the mayor and council disciplinary action involving an officer; failing to attend a neighborhood meeting in District 4 after several requests by Councilwoman Mary Stevens; inadequate responses to residents' complaints against illegal drug activities especially in District 4; and not properly communicating with crime victims and residents reporting criminal activity.
Ray, during questioning by Hughes on Friday, testified Sanford never told him that he would lose his job if he did not correct issues brought up by the mayor.
"Did the mayor ever give you a deadline to get them done?" Hughes asked.
"No," Ray said. "If someone had told me I would be fired if I didn't get something done, I would have made sure they were done."
Sanford testified Thursday he sent emails to Ray outlining performance issues but never told him that failing to correct the problems could lead to termination.
"I'd rather be accused of being a thief than being accused of being incompetent," Ray said during his more than three hours of testimony Friday. "But some people think I am, and they have put me on trial for that. I don't feel I'm deserving of it.
"I want to be the best chief I can. I want to go back to work. I told my wife (Friday) this might be my last day of being a certified police officer, after 32 years. I'm not ready for that."
On Friday, Gardner asked Ray why, if he had done everything he said he had done, would the entire council say under oath that they supported the termination.
"Why would they say it's time for a change, the chief needs to go?" Gardner asked.
Ray said it seemed his troubles began when he spoke out against a couple of liquor licenses.
"Maybe I've said no when I should have said yes," Ray said.
During his closing remarks, Gardner said it is vital for a city to function properly, and that the mayor and the police chief must work hand in hand.
"It's critical that the mayor and council know what's going on," Gardner said. "At no time have I had a mayor and council come before the (civil service) board and say there needs to be a change.
"(The mayor, council and chief) can't work together. That in itself warrants removal of the chief."
Hughes told the board during his closing that there was nothing in Ray's personnel file until now.
"To just terminate him with no reason isn't right," Hughes said. "There has been no evidence whatsoever that he was told if he didn't do certain things he would be fired. He was never given a drop-dead deadline to have these things done or be fired."
Hughes called for the board to reinstate Ray as chief and let him use the things he heard during testimony to better communicate with the mayor and council and to improve the department.
"If he doesn't do things better, get things together, then bring charges back against him," Hughes said.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.