McKenzie council meeting turns heated

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 9, 2006

It proved to be a strong mixture of the positive and the negative at the McKenzie Town Council Meeting Monday night.

The evening began quietly enough with a well-attended open house in the council's new &#8220digs” in the Peoples Bank building, a move Mayor Betty Stinson is &#8220very, very excited” about.

&#8220We are so proud of our new location. It's so much more convenient for the elderly, especially those who live in these apartments close by. It's on level ground so they don't have to climb those steps,” Stinson pointed out.

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The mayor was also excited about the swearing in of Glenda Kirby as the newest council member. Kirby, who is taking the place of her mother, the late Alva Floyd, said she had &#8220two pairs of big shoes to fill.”

&#8220My father (J.C. Floyd) was on the police department here and later served as the police chief. He was a city council member…when he died in 1978 my mother took his place,” Kirby explained. Floyd's mother passed away in the fall of 2005.

&#8220It's an honor to follow in their footsteps…mother would be very pleased.”

Following the swearing-in ceremony, the monthly meeting got underway. The mood quickly shifted from a celebratory to an accusatory one.

Stinson addressed the fact &#8220some ugly rumors had been going around.”

&#8220We've had complaints…I've had them, more in support of than against. Anyone with a complaint come forward now and speak their peace,” Stinson stated to the crowd.

McKenzie resident Mike Stuckey questioned the activities of McKenzie police officer Ronnie Terry.

These included Terry's alleged use of the police cruiser for trips to Wal-Mart, taking the cruiser home and allowing unauthorized persons to ride in the car with Terry, putting the city council in jeopardy for liability.

Stuckey also stated he believed Terry was making stops and arresting individuals outside of the McKenzie town limits.

He also questioned Terry's reasons for being involved in accident scenes outside his jurisdiction.

&#8220He is going all over the place when he should be here in town, and I want to know why,” Stuckey said.

As to the reason Terry takes the unit home, Stinson responded, &#8220Ronnie is on call 24 hours a day – that's why he takes the car home.”

Terry, a former Butler County sheriff's deputy, said he had quit his second job to be more available because &#8220that's what the mayor asked me to do…I'm supposed to have Wednesdays and Thursdays off, but I work on Thursdays for free.”

&#8220I was asked by the mayor to focus on drugs here in McKenzie, and I have done that.”

Addressing the issue of visits to Wal-Mart, Terry said, &#8220I remember going there to pick up some items for city hall one time, and going to buy some rounds of ammunition for qualifying another time. I don't recall anything else.”

He added,”If we so much as get out of the car and go to the bathroom, we call 911 and let them know what's going on.”

A large number of McKenzie High students and coach Cindy Lowe were on hand to lend their support to Terry. Terry and a volunteer, Jamie Jones, have been escorting the McKenzie High basketball teams to and from away games.

&#8220We support Ronnie and Jamie in whatever they do. They have never mistreated us,” Lowe said.

&#8220Have you ever been to J.F. Shields?” Lowe asked Stuckey. &#8220It's not only a scary place, it's very rural. There's no cell phone signal out there. If the bus breaks down, you're stuck.”

Terry said on occasion he had carried students home

from games &#8220because they were sick.”

&#8220I give that information to 911. It's a matter of public record,” Terry said.

Lowe added,”His car is always in front of or behind the bus.”

As to who rides in the police car, Stinson said, &#8220It's whoever me and the council says can ride in it,” reminding Stuckey she was &#8220the chief of the chief of police.”

James Neese of Greenville, an aquaintance of Stuckey's, was also present at the meeting.

Neese said Terry was &#8220manipulating” McKenzie residents, &#8220bulling and buttering them up.”

&#8220He has no business outside these city limits,” Neese said.

The meeting continued with heated exchanges from both sides of the issue. Neese was eventually escorted out of the building by Sheriff Diane Harris, after he didn't comply with her suggestion to &#8220sit down and shut up.”

Stinson called it &#8220an exciting meeting.”

&#8220We have wanted to get drugs off the streets here, and I think we are accomplishing that. I appreciate everything Ronnie is doing for our community. I love this town and its people.” the mayor said.