The Durant City Council met Tuesday evening for the regular monthly meeting.
In addition to routine business, the topic of Durant Police Chief David Houser and the Fraternal Order of Police was brought up by citizens based upon recent media attention.
Because of press deadlines, other details of the council meeting will be published in a future Durant Daily Democrat.
Actions Tuesday began with a morning meeting with Durant Police officers who are members of the FOP and the Democrat. That meeting resulted in hearing a former acting City Manager speak on a hidden recording about Chief Houser.
The recording was made by someone in the Durant Police Department with the subject being action that was taken against Chief Houser.
The Democrat was only allowed to hear a few minutes of that recording.
There was an admission several months ago by former acting City Manager Donalla Miller, that there was an incident with a sexual harassment accusation and complaint, and further that measures were taken as per policy about the incident.
Then later in the afternoon, City Manager Tim Rundel issued an official written statement concerning what has received the most publicity about Houser, that sexual harassment incident.
Rundel’s statement read: “While it is not customary for the City of Durant to discuss personnel matters, Chief David Houser has agreed to allow the release of details regarding this incident:
On August 25, 2016 a complaint was received by City Administration alleging that Chief Houser made a comment to an officer of the Durant Police Department which was “inappropriate for a supervisor”. An investigation was conducted. Chief Houser stated he did in fact jokingly say, “maybe you aren’t kissing the right butt” when conversing with the officer about radar equipment which was awaiting inventory. Chief Houser was given a Disciplinary Coaching regarding incident. It was determined that no sexual harassment or hostile work environment took place however, the City of Durant takes these matters seriously and requires annual training for all employees.”
The FOP had previously stated they wanted more transparency and admissions of things they felt were being denied by City Hall. They said they wanted to eliminate a “hostile working environment” with a possible solution, a new Chief brought in from outside Durant.
Chief Houser was at the Durant City Council meeting in his role as Police Chief.
Several citizens signed up as required ahead of time to speak to the council. It was not known what topic the speakers would speak to the council about.
Their opportunity came after approximately 2 hours of other city business.
First to speak about Houser was Pastor Bill Ledbetter of Fairview Baptist Church. Ledbetter is also Police Chaplain for Durant Police Department. The FOP has stated they felt Ledbetter was against them. One officer said he was told by Ledbetter, “You’ll reap what you sow,” if you vote no confidence.
Ledbetter addressed the council and said that he has spent countless hours in counsel with officers and families in his role as Chaplain.
He said, “It is my judgment that we have one of the best-trained, well managed departments anywhere in the country. I have watched our officers’ righteous judgments when citizens are in violation of the law. I’ve also been amazed by their demonstrations of compassion as they have worked with people in crisis.”
Ledbetter said he is proud of the Durant Police Department. He cited his business-world experience when he said that every entity will sometimes have disharmony.
He said the Durant Police Department is not immune to organizational issues that need resolution.
Ledbetter continued, “They are like any other entity in that respect.”
He said The Lord prescribes principals of resolving conflict. “Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers because they shall be called sons of God.”
He said efforts have been made by many to help resolve the issues at hand with the department and the FOP.
He said, “I stand here today because The Fraternal Order of Police has taken another tact and now with the media somehow involved, our Chief’s character and integrity has been maligned without warrant.”
Ledbetter said relationships have been strained and some broken.
He said to the council, “We are blessed with fine officers. Chief Houser is a Godly man. Gentle, yet firm in his relationships. He’s an excellent trainer, manager and well-trained cop.”
He said Chief Houser has driven 2 hours in the middle of the night to be with and pray with an officer who wound up in a hospital for some reason. He said he traveled with him for some of those trips. “Bottom line” Ledbettter said, “I have the utmost respect for our Chief.”
He said that if they ousted Houser as requested by the FOP, it would only exacerbate issues and not resolve things properly. That it would not be in the spirit of negotiation. Ledbetter said, “I maintain a spirit of cooperative negotiation. I ask the council to stand firm. Hopefully, with the Lord’s help we can resolve any matters we face now or in the future. I’m appealing to the other side,(FOP)for reconciled relationships, attitudes and a new brotherhood in the department to prevail. The peacemakers shall be called the sons of God.”
Dr. Jim S. Harmon, former SOSU professor and former volunteer Durant Police Chaplain, spoke to the council in his allotted 4-minute time about Houser and his integrity.
He said, “My remarks are also directed about Police Chief Houser. For the last 8 years I have visited Durant Police at least twice per week. I love the department. I love the officers. I love our Chief Houser. I love our Deputy Chief also. Every police department has tension. Former Chief Cook made a comment in the last few days, that these two groups should work together and do like they have done in past years, with the FOP to work with the Chief. Certainly the Democrat indicated recently that Chief Houser was amenable to sitting down and working with the FOP.”
Harmon said his purpose in speaking was to encourage Chief Cook’s and Chief Houser’s recommendation and I hope the feeling of the FOP, to work together to sit down and see if these issues can be worked out.”
He spoke about a comment made that is attributed to the FOP that “they had gotten rid of 3 chiefs and we will get rid of a fourth.”
The FOP has not admitted to knowledge of one of their officers making this comment.
Harmon continued, “I hope it’s not true. But God help us if it is.”
He said, “My hope is everyone can sit down and work on the issues. We have to bear in mind that the outcome can have a profound effect on the city. It can be destructive or likewise can be most helpful. Let’s be optimistic and let’s remember to pray about this.”
Contact Dan Pennington at (580) 634-2162 or [email protected]