There was plenty of contention in the air Tuesday during Junction City Council’s regular meeting when resident and business owner Leeroy Hardin returned to discuss a letter sent to him by Police Chief Merl Baldwin. Hardin appeared before the council in February to raise concerns primarily directed at the police department, and Baldwin sent a letter to him addressing the concerns.
Among other issues, Hardin wanted to discuss in detail an incident he claims happened in the parking lot of his business — QuickStop on Old Hustonville Road. Hardin says a hit and run occurred in November, involving a truck belonging to Jeremy Hardin, his son, who was present at last night’s meeting but not during February’s when the incident originally was brought up.
Jeremy Hardin told the council Tuesday he did not notice the damage to his truck until later in the day, but that he had spoken with both Junction City Police Officers — Parker Hatter and Doug Combs.
“(Officer) Doug (Combs) told me to go look on the camera (video footage from Quickstop)¿and see who it was and he would go talk to the individual,” Jeremy Hardin said. He said he reviewed the footage, determined who it was and still had not heard back from police. Jeremy Hardin said he had made contact with the individual on his own, but nothing was resolved.
Baldwin explained in the letter and reiterated in the meeting neither of the officers has recollection of such an event. According to Councilman Kenny Baldwin, officer Hatter said he remembered speaking with Jeremy Hardin at the QuickStop after the fact, but not the night of the alleged incident.¿Kenny Baldwin called in officer Hatter, who was in the hallway during the meeting.
Officer Hatter told the council he and Combs never worked together on any such incident, and he did not remember having a conversation on the night the Hardins claim it happened.
As the conversation continued, Mayor Jim Douglas interjected — with the encouragement of City Attorney Bill Noelker — stating the council needed to move on, pointing out the incident had occurred eight months ago.
“I’m sorry this took place, but we need to move on now,” Douglas said.
Councilman Dewayne Taylor asked if there were any witnesses who saw Jeremy Hardin speaking with the officers. Jeremy Hardin said his girlfriend had been with him when he spoke to police, but was unable to attend the meeting.
Again, Douglas stressed the need to move the conversation beyond the accident. However, Leeroy Hardin continued to directly address Chief Baldwin, asking questions and making comments.
“If you have specific complaints about the chief of police and not investigating, or something like that, if you could direct them at the council. I think it’s inappropriate at this point to have the chief testifying,” Noelker stated.
Hardin went on to question the frequency of the city’s purchases at QuickStop, which he said had stopped entirely after Baldwin became chief.
In other news
n Julie Coffman, wife of council member Archie Coffman, addressed the council, asking the men on the city’s governing body to consider why they chose to run for the council in the first place.
“There’s right and wrong reasons for what goes on” on council, she said. “It’s time to bond together to stop all this ridiculousness … You have a lot of opportunity here and you’re wasting time by bickering back and forth with whatever your personal issues are.”
She stressed that, as a taxpayer of Junction City, she felt it was “demeaning” to see such things happened and encouraged them that, if they were on the council for the wrong reasons, they would instead “let people come in here with the right intentions and do the right things for the right reasons.”
“If you do things for the right reasons, then this city will succeed,” Coffman said.
n Taylor questioned the possibility of replacing city limit signs, specifically the one on Airport Road. Mayor Douglas agreed and said it was being looked at along with three others. Douglas also confirmed the state was planning to replace state signs.
n Council member Jimmy Gipson brought up the status of multiple buildings on Main Street, which were expected to be torn down. Fire Chief Scott Terry confirmed they were in the process of getting the approval for the dilapidated structures to be destroyed, however, there had been setbacks in the process.
n Councilman Hershel Fletcher was absent due to illness.