By Marla Jones, Managing Editor • firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTO: A Geraldine citizen spoke up in favor of Assistant Police Chief Jeff Buckles, despite no public comments being allowed at the meeting. (Zach Hester | Southern Torch)
GERALDINE, Ala. — On Tuesday night, the Town of Geraldine took action to terminate Assistant Police Chief Jeff Buckles after an independent investigation into comments he made online after last month’s State of the Union.
“Pelosi just ripped up his speech. Road Side bomb on her way home and any other Dumbocrats,” Buckles stated in his post. The post was later deleted with Buckles apologizing, “I have definitely offended some people with my remarks. It just rips my heart out that our great country is so divided.”
The Council voted 5-1, with Mayor Chuck Ables voting for termination and only Councilmember Terry Harris voting against, to terminate Buckles’ employment with the Town of Geraldine.
“I feel that this was blown out of proportion, and could’ve been handled in-house,” said Harris. “I feel that the Council was pressured because this situation was handled by comments on Facebook. I voted for what I thought was right for Buckles and the Town of Geraldine. It may not have been by the law, but it’s what I felt was right.”
A Geraldine citizen attempted to speak in favor of Buckles, during the meeting, despite the Council stating it would not be taking public comments. Tensions rose between the citizen, identified as Gerald Tillman, and Mayor Chuck Ables, who stated that if he wanted to stay, he would have to remain quiet.
Last week, the Council held a special called meeting to have a due process hearing. Buckles chose to have his side of the story told in a private meeting with Town Attorney Nikki Scott and his own personal third-party, impartial lawyer.
“Officer Buckles had a due process hearing on February 25 with his attorney and an ‘impartial hearing officer’,” said Mayor Chuck Ables. “The recommendation from that officer was to terminate based on clear violations of the Town Police Procedural manual.”
“Officer Buckles was very apologetic and in my opinion never intended for his post to be a threat to anyone, but it clearly violated our policy on social media,” Ables continued. “He has been a very good officer for us over the past two years and always been a good ambassador for our Town. I had a very pleasant conversation with him after the meeting and I appreciate his contrite spirit and I assured him I would help him any way I can and I believe he will do the same for me. He understands a mistake was made and I believe we made the correct decision after going through the prescribed procedures. I truly wish the best for him.”
Southern Torch reached out to Buckles for public comment, but he stated that no comments could be made at this time.