Pine Bluff Mayor Carl Redus Jr. was unusually circumspect when asked for comment on the recent non-investigation into Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones' firing of Assistant Chief Ivan Whitfield. Redus said in a response to an inquiry from Alderman Bill Brumett at a recent City Council meeting that an internal affairs investigation concerning allegations made about Davis-Jones by Whitfield had been conducted and the investigators concluded the allegations were false.
Pine Bluff Mayor Carl Redus Jr. was unusually circumspect when asked for comment on the recent non-investigation into Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones’ firing of Assistant Chief Ivan Whitfield. Redus said in a response to an inquiry from Alderman Bill Brumett at a recent City Council meeting that an internal affairs investigation concerning allegations made about Davis-Jones by Whitfield had been conducted and the investigators concluded the allegations were false.
Brumett has been charitable in characterizing the matter as one in which Redus simply “misspoke.” We tend to view the matter more critically. From a more distant vantage it would appear that Redus is either sufficiently disconnected as to not know what had actually taken place (or not taken place); or in the alternative, he knew and consciously chose to obfuscate. In either instance, the mayor’s credibility is lodged tightly between a rock and hard place.
Like Brumett, we are interested in getting to the bottom of the issue. If the allegations prove true, Davis-Jones used her position to effect retribution on Whitfield in furtherance of a personal grudge. Whether that is the case, the public — including Whitfield — have a right to know.
As has been argued here previously, the investigation that was supposed to have taken place is a questionable enterprise at best. The person supposedly put in charge of conducting the investigation was Davis-Jones’ immediate subordinate, Deputy Chief Kelvin Sargent. Sargent was promoted to his current position by Davis-Jones. Sargent’s conflict of interest goes deeper in light of the fact that Whitfield’s version of events also has Sargent as a witness. Given that the investigation concerns several top officials of the department, no one inside the agency can conduct a wholly neutral exploration.
With the current system of discipline and promotions, no subordinate could perform a robust inquiry without fear of reprisal. Indeed Davis-Jones’ alleged penchant for management by reprisal is the very thing at issue. As such, any investigation will lack both face validity and moral authority unless it is performed by an external body. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Arkansas State Police come to mind.
Whatever the result of a properly impartial investigation, the city faces much deeper concerns. If it is determined that Redus knew there had been no investigation and made contradictory statements in his official capacity, on record, in the course of a public proceeding, all similar statements of “fact” on his part could be called into question. It goes to the core of our democratic principles that our public officials must conduct the business of the city from a position that is wholly forthcoming. If these twined nefarious deeds are substantiated, it means we have city officials with no sense of boundaries.
When asked about the recent “no confidence” vote that stalemated in the City Council, Alderman Glen Brown responded that such a vote was the wrong way to address any issues the aldermen may have with a city employee’s performance. Brown said he did not agree with Davis-Jones’ decision to fire Whitfield, but that the “no confidence” vote was still not the right thing to do.
“She may in the end leave Pine Bluff, she may stay in Pine Bluff — that’s up to the mayor,” Brown said. “However, if she does decide to go somewhere else, it’s not up to us to tarnish her so badly that she can’t get a job anywhere else.”
In this last statement Brown reveals something vitally important about his flawed perspective. When he says, “…it’s not up to us to tarnish her so badly that she can’t get a job anywhere else,” he betrays the obligations at hand. Davis-Jones is the public’s servant, not the other way around. The city government and indeed the people, owe her nothing in terms of future employment prospects.
If her reputation has encumbered any tarnish, it is through her efforts alone. A vote of no confidence is a reflection of tarnish — not a cause.