Public Safety Committee votes to sustain Shaffer’s termination

The City of Manning Public Safety Committee met tonight with a brief agenda: to discuss the termination of Blair Shaffer. Mayor Julia Nelson opened the meeting with an explanation regarding the process for grievance. “We are at step 1.2 in the grievance committee. Normally at this point, we do not have a public hearing,” said Nelson. This point in the process is to allow the person with the grievance the opportunity to go to his or her immediate supervisor. “Since Council voted to transfer the Public Safety Committee duties from the administrator to the Public Safety Committee, we are considered the supervisors of Mr. Shaffer,” said Nelson. “We will go into executive session. Based on that discussion with Mr. Shaffer and the Public Safety Committee, and if he has a legal advisor, he can also be present, based on the decision coming out of executive session, where the vote will take place in open session, we will then know how this grievance will continue.” Nelson went on to explain the step 1.4 of the grievance process will be a hearing. Mr. Shaffer would then be able to choose whether to have the meeting as an open or closed meeting. “We have to go by the rules already established and by legal advice,” said Nelson. The Committee then went into session at 5:33 p.m. with Nelson, Mayor Pro-tem Sherry Welle and Councilman Clayton Pack, as well as Shaffer. Rather than move to the private executive session chambers, they requested anyone in the audience exit the main Council chambers and wait in the upstairs or downstairs lobby. Shaffer exited the chambers at 6:45 p.m. The Committee spoke privately for another 14 minutes before calling the audience back in. After voting to return from executive session, the Committee gave a statement. “The Public Safety Committee sustains our original position on termination. Mr. Shaffer will now have the choice to continue on with the grievance process as outlined in our personnel policy,” said Welle. “I do want to make this public statement on myself,” said Nelson. “This process has never been about whether Blair Shaffer is a good man. He is still respected by all the Public Safety Committee and obviously by the public. And we are very glad for the conversation we were able to have during executive session, Chief, and with the mannerisms you presented and everything else. We just are at an unfortunate place, and we will just continue on with the grievance process as outlined. But know that everyone thinks you’re a good man and have rendered good service to the city.” After the meeting adjourned, Shaffer gave a statement. “I was disappointed. I would have loved for them to give me my job back. I have a lot of passion for the police department and for this city, and there’s a lot of unfinished business I wanted to do for the police department. But it is definitely not over with. I’ll file a formal grievance tomorrow. The next step is having a hearing in front of a grievance committee. That could be within the next couple of weeks,” said Shaffer. Shaffer plans to make the hearing a public hearing. According to current process, once a formal grievance has been filed, the City has ten days to set a date for the hearing. The grievance committee will hear the grievance, will make a recommendation and will submit it to the City Administrator. The City Administrator will then submit it to the City Council. However, as the Public Safety Committee is now in oversight with the Public Safety Department, they may be the ones to receive and forward the grievance. Shaffer is concerned with the Council’s involvement in his termination. As part of the grievance process, if someone has already formed an opinion in the matter, they may not sit on the grievance committee and hear the grievance. Shaffer is concerned that the two members of Council and the Mayor, who fired him, would again have a vote when it goes before full Council. “How do I get a fair grievance when part of the Council voted to fire me?” asked Shaffer. Supportive friends and concerned residents attended the meeting. Shaffer was joined by his wife, Kimberley, and his daughters Kristin and Kamryn. “My desire is to come back here to Manning. I’ve been here 25 1/2 years. I’d love to stay here and retire on my own terms,” said Shaffer.  


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