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Jonesboro Council upholds police chief's firing

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

The Jonesboro City Council, on Monday, voted 4-2 to uphold Mayor Luther Maddox's decision to fire former Police Chief Brad Johnson.

Council members Bobby Wiggins, Clarence Mann, Roger Grider and Rick Yonce voted in favor of the resolution "to dissolve the employment of Brad Johnson with the City of Jonesboro." Council members Billy Powell and Wallace Norrington voted against it.

The City Council took the vote following Johnson's May 28 request for an appeal hearing before the council.

Maddox said he fired Johnson because he did not successfully complete his "working test," according to a memo dated May 21, the day Johnson was fired. Following Monday night's meeting, Maddox referred to the "working test" as a probationary period.

Johnson began working as police chief on Jan. 1.

"We're going to appeal to the Superior Court at a very minimum," Johnson's attorney, Keith Martin, said following the vote. "We'll have 30 days to appeal," he said.

Martin argued that Maddox did not have grounds to fire Johnson, and did not have the authority to fire him without the prior approval of the council.

More than 100 Jonesboro residents packed council chambers during Monday night's meeting, many carrying signs in support of Johnson. About a dozen residents addressed the council during the public comment portion of the meeting, prior to the vote on the resolution.

"A vote against Chief Johnson will be a vote against you," said city resident Beverly Swint, 76.

"Mayor Maddox, I think it's time for you to resign before you cause any more damage to this city," said resident Anne Wise, 49.

"Chief Johnson has done many good things for the city," said Beverly Lester, 56. "We could call on him 24 hours a day, and he would respond to us in person," she said.

"Mayor Maddox, your recent actions show that we were wrong to trust you. You have let us down," Lester continued.

During the public comments period, no residents spoke in favor of Johnson's termination.

Approximately three weeks before he fired Johnson, Maddox suspended the police chief for wearing blue jeans on the job, and for what Maddox called disrespect of the office of mayor.

Prior to being fired, Johnson appealed that suspension. The City Council upheld the suspension, but reduced it from five days without pay, to two and a half days without pay.

Martin said Johnson will also appeal the suspension in Clayton County Superior Court. He said he'll file the appeal of the suspension by the end of this week.