CENTERVILLE -- A ranking police official on administrative leave has left the Centerville Police Department.
City Council met late Friday afternoon and voted to approve a severance package for police Lt. Phillip Pritchett. The vote was unanimous.
Pritchett most recently served as what has been described as the “interim law enforcement head” of the department. That role came following a series of leadership shifts triggered by the resignation of former Police Chief Sid Andrews in June and culminated in management of the department being taken over this week by the Houston County Sheriff’s Office.
Mayor John Harley and council members said they did not know specifically why Pritchett chose to leave the department at this time. They said terms of the agreement were handled exclusively through Pritchett’s and the city’s attorneys.
Pritchett could not be reached for comment.
Terms of the severance agreement give Pritchett $5,000 as he leaves the department. It releases the city and its officials from any claims, grievances or legal actions initiated by Pritchett. The agreement prohibits either party from making “disparaging remarks” about the other.
The agreement also states that if requested, the city will provide to third parties, including prospective employers, Pritchett’s dates of employment, position and annual compensation as well as provide Pritchett a letter of reference with similar information if requested.
Councilman Micheal Evans, who has council oversight of the police department, said Friday he appreciated Pritchett’s service to the department and community.
Pritchett has been on what Harley called non-punitive administrative leave with pay since the council voted Sept. 9 to put the police department under the management of the sheriff’s office for up to 90 days.
Capt. Ronnie Harlowe of the sheriff’s office has led police since Monday.
Pritchett, whom Harley said had been with the department for eight years, previously headed the departments patrol division. He became “interim law enforcement head” when former city Councilman Ed Tucker resigned his council seat and was immediately appointed to the newly created civilian position of director of police services to manage the department in July following Andrews’ June resignation.
At the same time, the council did away with an assistant chief position at the department that left then-assistant chief W.G. Cooley without a job.
Along with Pritchett, Tucker was also placed on non-punitive administrative leave with pay as the sheriff’s office assumed department oversight.
Evans, who called for Friday’s special council meeting to vote on Pritchett’s severance agreement, replaced Tucker on the council and has only served since the end of July.
Evans said Friday that being on the council has been “eye opening” and that council members want to do what’s best for the city.
He said he was eager to see matters straightened out at the police department so the council could get on to other business.
The particular issues at the police department requiring council’s action to place it under the control of the sheriff’s office have not been publicly disclosed.
Harley said Friday he also hoped police department issues would soon be resolved and that findings will be made public.
Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.