Chief Green delivers his surprise retirement notice
Editor's note: Following Tuesday night's meeting, Town Manager Gregory Bethea made Police Chief and Assistant Town Manager John Green's retirement effective immediately. Green planned to stay until Sept. 1, but Green said Bethea approached him at about lunch time on Wednesday and told him that he could leave now. An immediate attempt to reach Bethea was not successful. The following story was written prior to The Franklin Times confirming that Green's departure had taken place on Wednesday afternoon.
FRANKLINTON -- Police Chief and Assistant Town Manager John Green announced his retirement, punctuating a meeting where residents expressed concerns about safety and frustrations with a lack of governmental response.
Inside a socially-distant, but packed town meeting space on Tuesday, Green told commissioners, Town Manager Gregory Bethea and a host of residents that he was retiring, effective Sept. 1.
Green said that the continued whittling of his police force meant he was always on call because the town didn't have enough officers to provide routine backup for officers on duty.
"I think it's time," Green said. "... The motivation behind it is, when I look at my officers, I can't live with one of them getting hurt on my watch.
"... I'm wearing myself out because I'm laying at home every night, listening to my radio, [24 hours a day, seven days a week] to be their backup."
The department, Green said, is fully staffed with about 10 officers.
But, when officers have left, town management has not seen fit to fill those posts, he said. The magic number, Green said he was told, was seven officers.
In a growing town, though, that has made it difficult to cover shifts and provide officers with scheduled backup.
"I'm wearing myself out," he said. "I just can't do it anymore."
Green also said goodbye to the town's street department staff. When he was tabbed as assistant town manager, to go along with his chief duties, Green oversaw that department.
"I was placed to supervise that department and I've got nothing but love for what y'all do," Green said.
"The citizens need to understand that you really do a lot for them," Green said.
"To my law enforcement family, I've got nothing but love for y'all," he said.
The only immediate response to Green's announcement was applause, led by Town Manager Gregory Bethea, who then quickly moved on to the next item on the agenda.
However, the only comments were made by Commissioner John Allers later in the meeting.
"You mean a lot to me," Allers said to Green. "You mean a lot to this board.
"If there's any way, and I'm speaking for me. I'm not going to speak for anyone else on the board," Allers said.
"Please, reconsider," Allers said, which prompted a response from the audience to give him some help.
"Everyone here is backing you up," he said. "That's my request to you.
Following the meeting, Green appeared to be adamant about his decision -- ending more than 10 years of service as chief and more as an officer.
During the July 21 town meeting, Green wasn't the only voice that commissioners heard.
Resident Tammy Green asked town commissioners and staff why the police department was being defunded and was concerned that having only one officer on duty at a given time put them in danger.
Green noted that she had expressed these concerns with town leaders before, but had gotten no response.
The town's attorney informed residents during the meeting that the public comment section was a time for residents to bring items and issues to the board, but that commissioners would not engage in a back and forth with residents.
Mayor Art Wright said that residents were free to stick around after the meeting and engage with management or commissioners to get responses to their queries or concerns.
Following Tammy Green, resident Ashley Vick brought forth two issues:
• Vick said she put in an offer to buy the old town hall annex building, but the response she got from town management regarding the ability to purchase the property, was less than ideal.
Also, she said, she did not get any information about the appraisal on the property.
"I'm not the only one who has had this problem," she said.
Vick then set her sights on the town's parks and recreation department, accusing its operator, Jonathan Chandler, of making disparaging comments about her and the former director, John Green.
"I do know the things you said and now you know I know," Vick said. "So, as the Godly man you proclaim to be, tell me why?
"Because, in my beliefs, Godly men don't go around talking in condescending ways."
Again, the board did not respond to the comments.
Resident Victoria Perry asked commissioners if they had received or expected to receive a second round of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security [CARES Act] funds, which gets disbursed from the federal government, through the county, to the towns.
[Franklinton has been allotted $44,558 in the first round of funding, but the second round of funding, county staff have said, has not yet been allotted]
Beyond that, Perry noted concerns she had about police staffing and said she spoke with town staff about internships toward employment for young people in town.
The most damning comments, though, concerned actual town employment.
"I notice there were several new positions that came open in town, but I was never able to find those positions on the website," she said. "I asked [Bethea] for an application.
"I never got an application," she said. "And, to me, it appears that, in town hall, for some reason, it's very hard for a person of color, male or female, to retain employment.
"So, I would like it if the board could get back to me on that one."
Two more spoke during public comments.
Former town commissioner Joe Cutchins, who serves as chair of the town's ABC board, wondered why he was no longer being asked to provide reports of ABC store activity to the board and residents.
Another, soon-to-be resident, Kim Estes, asked commissioners if they might be interested in supporting a celebration of life fundraiser at the town cemetery.
Again, there was no comment from the board.
Later in the meeting, though, after Allers asked Green to reconsider, he said the board needs to take an active and transparent role in addressing concerns brought forth by residents during the meeting.
"A lot of folks have spoken tonight," he said, "and aired some issues and concerns.
"I'm going to ask, and I don't know if it's proper, or not, but I'm going to ask anyway that somehow, or another, our responses as a town get to the citizens ... because there are some issues that I think need to be looked at.
"I'd like to see what the answers are and I know that the citizens would like to see what the answers are."