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Tallahassee leaders spar over a new police union contract

A group of people at a gas station. The man to the right is speaking into a microphone.
Margie Menzel
Pastor Lee Johnson leads a press conference Monday. The group behind him includes Tallahassee City Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter.

The Tallahassee City Commission will almost certainly approve a contract with the local chapter of the Police Benevolent Association at its regular meeting on Wednesday.  

But on Monday, two commissioners held a news conference to blast the agreement, and the mayor fought back in his own meeting with reporters.

At issue is Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell’s decision to retain an officer with a positive drug test.

Mayor John Dailey and City Manager Reese Goad support Revell’s decision. The city’s new contract with the PBA includes both negotiated salaries and the extent of the police chief’s authority in hiring and firing officers.

Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter oppose Revell’s decision and participated in a press event Monday morning to say so.

“So the question people are asking me, the question we’re asking the community, and the question we’re asking the city commission is: Moving forward, do we want law enforcement officers to be able to use drugs and have no accountability?” asked Matlow.   
But Dailey said Monday afternoon that he supports the language giving the police chief the discretion to fire or retain an officer.

“I do. It’s also in the sheriff’s contract,” he said. “It is not unusual for law enforcement chiefs of police and for sheriffs to have discretion in the hiring and firing outside of what is prescribed during the general HR negotiation period of with an employee.”

These will be among the items on the city commission’s agenda tomorrow afternoon.

Follow @MargieMenzel

Margie Menzel covers local and state government for WFSU News. She has also worked at the News Service of Florida and Gannett News Service. She earned her B.A. in history at Vanderbilt University and her M.S. in journalism at Florida A&M University.