City council reacts to police chief reassignment
McKinney city staff members have not yet given a reason for the recent reassignment of Police Chief Doug Kowalski, but the mayor and one city council member have voiced disagreement with City Manager Jason Gray's method of action.
Gray on Friday sent an email to the council and to the police department announcing Kowalski had been reassigned and Deputy City Manager Joe Williams had been appointed as his replacement.
That was the first the council and other city employees had heard of the change.
"It's very shocking and disturbing, to say the least," District 4 Councilman Ray Ricchi said Monday.
The council met in executive session Monday night to discuss the personnel change and other matters, as requested by Mayor Brian Loughmiller as soon as he heard about the switch. The council could not meet without 72-hour notice.
Following the special meeting, the city did not provide the reasons for Gray's decision, as personnel and executive-session matters are generally kept private. But Loughmiller said he requested Gray conduct a search for a new police chief "open to all qualified applicants."
"While I did not agree with the decision made on October 5, 2012, I understand the mayor and council's limitations of authority and the city manager's role of authority as expressed in the city charter as it relates to personnel decisions of city staff including department heads," Loughmiller said in a statement released Wednesday.
Under the city charter, the council has authority to hire and fire the city manager, but all subsequent staffing positions fall under the city manager's authority.
Each council member is expected to voice his or her opinion on the matter in coming days. Ricchi spoke his in a statement released Wednesday morning.
"After careful consideration, it is my opinion the information presented would not warrant the reassignment of Chief Kowalski," Ricchi said regarding Gray's explanation. "I understand the city manager's role is to evaluate employees, and while I respect that role, our job as council members is to evaluate the city manager's performance, including his exercise of judgment in the performance of his duties. I intend to completely evaluate the city manager's job performance and will do so with an open mind."
Ricchi went on to state that "the manner in which Mr. Gray executed his decision was extremely disrespectful, unprofessional and inconsistent with that which our citizens' demand and city personnel deserve."
Loughmiller said he is evaluating city charter language related to the city manager/city council form of government "that may address this issue for consideration by the city council and city of McKinney in the future."
Citizens questioned in recent days whether Gray made the switch simply because of his connection to Williams, who worked with Gray in Frisco for five years and in Celina for four years, before Gray hired him as McKinney's deputy city manager last June.
Williams was Celina police chief during Gray's time as Celina city manager from 2007 to 2011.
Kowalski served 23 years with the Dallas Police Department before coming to McKinney. He was named police chief in January 2001.
"I appreciate his service and leadership to the city of McKinney," Loughmiller said of Kowalski. "Our city has received recognition for being a safe city and a family oriented community. I thank Chief Kowalski for being instrumental in creating a safe environment despite unprecedented growth in our community over the past 12 years."