In a vote that barely cleared — four in favor, three opposed — the Palestine City Council elected to advise City Manager Wendy Ellis to terminate Robert Herbert from his position as Chief of Police for the Palestine Police Department on Monday evening following a four-and-a-half-hour closed session.
Council members Adam Harding of District 1, Joseph Thompson of District 4 and Mark Price of District 5 joined Mayor Therrell Thomas to vote in favor of a motion recommending Herbert's termination to the city manager, while council members Vernon Denmon of District 2, Steve Presley of District 6 and Vickey Chivers of District 3 voted in opposition.
The split vote came via a special meeting that the city scheduled somewhat impromptu-style, wedged between their normal bimonthly meetings, following a blustery week of public dissent to what some saw as the council's “lack of response” to concerns raised at their previous meeting held June 9 — issues regarding Herbert's leadership in the department.
City Attorney Ronald Stutes said according to city ordinance, the chief may only be removed from office by the city manager, with approval by the council.
“So people are clear, the motion was to recommend to the city manager that the police chief be terminated,” Stutes said. “The city manager will take the direction of the council and take action using her discretion... and that will be on a future city council agenda.”
Ellis said she will be placing Herbert on administrative leave at this point, “until that process can be completed and brought back to the council for consideration.”
At the end of the night, council member Chivers said she thought this was a “very wrong deal.”
“He has served our community, and this is the price that he gets,” Chivers said.
Similarly, council member Denmon said that Herbert came to the department “in a process that was started to bring change to the City of Palestine.”