It was a packed house at Anna City Hall for the bi-monthly city council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28. The tension was high and tempers flared during the workshop meeting — a meeting that is normally low-key and only has a few citizens present.
That evening, the workshop meeting was supposed to start out as the regular, annual evaluations of the city secretary, fire chief and police chief which were scheduled to be done in closed session.
Anna Mayor Nate Pike said he received some allegations against Police Chief Kenneth Jenks.
“Some items were brought to my attention by former employees against Chief Jenks,” Pike said.
Anna City attorney Clark H. McCoy, Jr. requested for Chief Jenks evaluation to be done in a public hearing format, as he wanted his officers to be able to be present during the meeting.
Pike said he received emails from Joseph Shires, Jordon Clark, Ian Patrick and Howard Day alleging that Chief Jenks tampered with time sheets and was bullying employees.
Pike asked Jenks who oversaw the employee’s time sheets. “I don’t do the time-sheets, the employees handle their own,” Jenks said. He said that the supervisors approved employee time sheets.
An investigation of the Anna police department by the Department of Labor was mentioned, to which Jenks said, “The Department of Labor investigated came up with nothing. The case was closed, and no violations were found.”
Anna City Manager Philip Sanders asked the council to omit the time sheet issue.
“I think we need to leave out the time-sheet claim, since the Department of Labor did not find anything,” said Sanders. “Regulatory departments often receive claims of employers not paying out what they should. Usually, they are unfounded.”
Pike moved on from the time sheet to other allegations. “One employee that contacted me said he was told he would be terminated if he reenlisted to the military,” said Pike.
“What you’re doing is forcing me to challenge a former employee’s credibility,” Jenks said. “Really, his credibility is horrible — that’s why he’s no longer with Anna.”
“His credibility is bad?” Pike asked. “He’s been promoted in his current department.”
“I can’t answer on his new position,” said Jenks. “He was rated on his performance here. It is law that the new department contacts the prior department for a reference and they did not.”
“How would you say the culture is in the department now?” Pike asked Jenks.
“It is better, much smoother,” Jenks replied. “We just did a Gallop poll and the police department ranked higher than the rest of the city and previous years. There are no egos to get in the way, everybody gets along.”
Pike asked council member Chris Reeves, who was on the Anna Police Force for over a decade, if there were any cultural issues when he was on the force. “Absolutely,” Reeves said. “If you no longer work there, you’re painted as a bad guy. I had four officers leave in the same time frame as me — two of them took less money. It’s always everybody else’s fault.”
“I promoted you, and you messed up. I could have fired you for it, but I didn’t,” Jenks said. “You have an axe to grind.”
“Once again, the bully mentality,” Reeves said. “Everyone’s a criminal, and you should be lucky we’re not prosecuting you is your reply to everything. You tried to bully me into changing my time sheet once I put my two-week notice in. You refuse to accept any responsibility for the ones that have left.”
Officer Tracy Foster came forward and said he was not going to get into the allegations, but was disturbed that Pike did not go to the officers for their side of the story.
“By law, I cannot approach any of you. There is a chain of command I must follow,” Pike said in response.
“I’m not getting in the middle because I am friends with Chris (Reeves) and Chief (Jenks),” Foster said. “I am happy in the police department.”
Foster asked the council to consider the source of where the allegations are coming from. “One of the former Anna police officers has been pulled over multiple times for committing crimes in an unmarked police car from his new department,” said Foster. “Chief (Jenks) requested a public hearing, so the rest of the department could hear what was going on.”
“It’s alarming to me the names that are bringing up the allegations,” Foster said. “I wouldn’t trust Howard Day to paint my house, in my opinion.
“This bickering in open forum is not achieving anything, except making the police department look bad,” said Foster. “The city needs to know this is not how we conduct business — we’re professionals.”
Another officer brought to attention the current state of the department “The police department is running better since all those names listed are gone,” the officer said. “Chief Jenks should be applauded for improving the police department.”
Pike stated he was just trying to get to the bottom everything and figure out what is going on.
“There is a chain of command,” the officer said to Pike. “You even admitted to it, you didn’t have to go at it this way.”
Jenks addressed one of the allegations from Clark. “Jordon (Clark) mentioned the tasers, which are on the agenda for tonight. We’ve been trying to get them on the agenda for a year.”
“If you leave, you’re treated like garbage,” said Reeves. “This is not the kind of culture we need at the police department. I was the third officer to leave in a six-week period.” Reeves stated his frustration for having to request an exit interview upon his leaving the force. “I don’t believe an employee should have to request an exit interview.”
“The city manager doesn’t typically do exit interviews,” said Sanders.
Before closing the public hearing, Pike said he would prefer to discuss the allegations with Jenks and Sanders outside of the public forum. Pike said he has nothing but respect for Jenks.
“I respect what you do with the city and its officers,” said Pike. “I live here as well, and it is important to keep the city safe.”
An earlier version of the article that aired online attributed a quote to an unconfirmed officer. The article has since been updated.