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Assistant police chief objects to hiring process that brought new chief

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville’s assistant police chief Monday told the city’s Civil Service Board that his new boss, hired by the City Council last month, doesn’t have the experience required in the board’s job description.

The assistant chief, Bill Wineman, who was also a candidate for the job, told the board at its Monday night meeting that he believes the new chief, Marcus Wood, benefited in the hiring process from friendships with city officials. Wood and the city officials on Tuesday said those accusations were false.

Civil Service Board members said Monday night that they believed Wood’s experience did meet the advertised requirements for the post. But the board’s explanations did little to satisfy Wineman, who addressed the board for nearly an hour at its regular public meeting.

“Me and him have had a discussion because this makes life ugly at the Police Department,” Wineman told board members near the end of his talk Monday night. “He’s a fine person. I have no problem with him as a person. I do have a problem with him as the chief of police. The reason I do is that he’s inexperienced and I see the inexperience happening daily.”

Wood, in an interview Tuesday, flatly denied Wineman’s allegations.

“I’m a fair guy and an upstanding guy, and that really upsets me that somebody would question my integrity by alleging something like that because of a personal friendship,” Wood said.

The city’s job description called for candidates to have at least 10 years of law enforcement experience and a four-year college degree, though work experience above the 10-year requirement could be substituted for the degree requirement. Wineman, in his remarks to the board, said Wood’s application materials noted just less than 12 years of law enforcement experience with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, and that he hasn’t completed a degree he started at Jacksonville State University.

“He lacks the preliminary requirements established in the job description,” he said. “He did not have 14 years of service.”

Board members told Wineman they considered Wood’s two years of coursework plus the 12 years of work experience to meet the requirements.

City Councilman Jimmy Harrell, reached by phone Tuesday, said Wood also has eight years of experience as a military police officer with the Alabama National Guard. Neither Wineman nor the board mentioned that Monday night, but Harrell said it was worthwhile experience.

“I count any military service towards a job, especially if it pertains like this case,” Harrell said. “It’s a law-enforcement job and he was a military police officer in the Army.”

Wineman also told board members he believes Wood’s appointment was influenced by his relationship with Harrell; he described the two as “best friends.”

“He should have recused himself from day one, he should have never been on the selection committee,” Wineman said. “They work together, they drink together and Harrell was a groomsman in Chief Wood’s wedding.”

Wineman also said city administrator Albertha Grant should have recused herself from the selection committee because she goes to church with Wood.He alleged that the relationships got Wood access to the committee’s questions for interviews with candidates.

“I think there is enough there that says those questions got out before anyone else saw them,” he said. “That is unbelievable that I could even think that, but there is enough personal contact that that could have happened.”

Harrell said that allegation was “absolutely not true” and that he and the City Council found Wood to be “fully” qualified. Wood echoed Harrell’s denial of the accusation. An attempt to reach Grant on Tuesday was unsuccessful.

Pat Borstorff, the Civil Service Board’s vice chairwoman, said Monday that the board followed its guidelines after receiving the job description approved by the City Council on Sept. 24 last year.

“Our job is to strictly look at the application packet and job description and say this person meets the minimum qualifications of the description,” Borstorff said. “We looked at all of them and we voted in favor of them and we sent the applications forward, that’s all we did.”

Borstorff said the board’s initial review of the applications didn’t include the candidates’ names.

Wineman told board members he believes the appointment should have come from within the department. Seven Jacksonville officers met the minimum qualifications to become chief, he said. He said that if one of them had been chosen, it would have caused a chain reaction of promotions within the department.

“You have told the rest of the city that we’re not going to promote from inside,” he said to the board. “You’ve told the employees of this city who have worked hard and served this city that ‘we don’t care what you think, we’re gonna hire the best qualified person.’”

Wineman also said Mayor Johnny Smith, in informing him that he didn’t get the job, told him he was the most experienced, most qualified and knew the most about the job, but did poorly on the interview. Wineman on Monday said he has more than 35 years of law enforcement experience. Attempts to reach Smith on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Wineman also said he believed he was a victim of “age discrimination,” as three council members in his interview asked how long he’d be in the chief position before retiring. He also told the board Monday night that he was a “protected class” of citizen, though he didn’t specify what class.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Wineman declined to answer questions. He said that Wood had directed him not to speak to reporters.

On Monday night, he suggested that he may pursue legal action against the city.

“I’m here before the board because before I take this any farther, I have to come complain before the board,” he said Monday night. “I’m going by what was told to me by an attorney, who has looked at the qualifications.”